Understanding Uterine Cancer/Treatment: What You Need to Know
Dr. Sidharth Pattnayak, Sr. Consultant – Radiation Oncology, HCG Panda Cancer Hospital, Cuttack
Women’s health encompasses a wide range of conditions and concerns that affect women’s well-being throughout their lives. Among the many health issues women may face, uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is one of the most common gynaecological malignancies affecting women worldwide. So here are the various ways to treat uterine cancer, including surgical interventions, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, along with emerging treatment options.
Causes of Uterine Cancer:
Uterine cancer develops when abnormal cells in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grow and multiply uncontrollably. The exact cause of uterine cancer is not always clear, but certain risk factors can increase a woman’s likelihood of developing this condition. These risk factors include obesity, hormonal imbalances (such as excess estrogen without sufficient progesterone), late menopause, never having been pregnant, a history of certain cancers, and a family history of uterine or colon cancer. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for early detection and prevention.
Signs and Symptoms of Uterine Cancer:
It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms that may indicate uterine cancer. The most common early warning sign is abnormal vaginal bleeding, particularly post-menopause. Women experiencing irregular bleeding, such as heavy periods or bleeding between periods, should seek medical attention promptly. Other symptoms may include pelvic pain, difficulty or pain during urination, and pain during intercourse.
- Surgery: The Cornerstone of Uterine Cancer Treatment
Surgery is often the primary treatment for uterine cancer, especially in the early stages when the tumor is confined to the uterus. The standard surgical procedure is a hysterectomy, which involves removing the uterus and cervix. In some cases, the surgeon may also remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries to prevent the cancer from spreading.
- Radiation Therapy: Targeting Cancer Cells with Precision
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It can be employed either before surgery (neoadjuvant) to shrink the tumor or after surgery (adjuvant) to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy is particularly useful in cases where cancer has invaded nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy: Systemic Treatment to Combat Cancer Cells
Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful drugs to kill or slow down the growth of cancer cells. It is commonly used in cases of advanced or metastatic uterine cancer. In certain situations, chemotherapy may also be used before or after surgery to reduce the tumor size or prevent recurrence.
- Hormone Therapy: Targeting Hormone-Sensitive Tumors
Some types of uterine cancer are hormone-sensitive, meaning they rely on hormones, such as estrogen, to grow. Hormone therapy aims to block the effects of these hormones, slowing down or inhibiting cancer growth. This approach is commonly used in cases of recurrent or metastatic uterine cancer.
- Targeted Therapy: Precision Treatment for Specific Genetic Changes
Targeted therapy is a relatively new treatment approach that targets specific genetic changes in cancer cells. It works by interfering with the specific molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth. Although targeted therapy is not yet widely used in uterine cancer, ongoing research is exploring its potential in treating specific subtypes of the disease.
- Immunotherapy: Enhancing the Body’s Immune Response
Immunotherapy is a promising approach that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. While it has shown significant success in various cancers, its role in uterine cancer treatment is still being investigated. Immunotherapy may offer hope for patients with advanced or recurrent uterine cancer.
The treatment of uterine cancer requires a multidisciplinary approach, with a range of therapeutic options available to address each patient’s unique condition. From surgery as the mainstay of treatment to the advancements in radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and the emerging fields of targeted therapy and immunotherapy, there is hope for improved outcomes and enhanced quality of life for women facing this disease. With ongoing research and innovative treatments on the horizon, the future looks promising in the fight against uterine cancer. Early detection, comprehensive treatment, and support from healthcare providers and loved ones form the foundation of an effective battle against uterine cancer.