Cancer of the uterus is the fourth most common cancer in women. In 2006, over 38,500 women in the United States found out they had uterine cancer.
The uterus, which is also known as the womb, is the part of the reproductive system where a baby grows and develops when a woman is pregnant. The uterus is a pear shaped organ in a woman’s pelvic area between the hip bones and below the stomach. The bottom part of the uterus is called the cervix. The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina, which is also known as the birth canal.
Cancer forms when cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other areas of the body. Cancer in the uterus is called uterine cancer.
Uterine cancer can take several different forms:
• Endometrial cancer – This cancer forms in the lining of uterus, which is called the endometrium.
• Uterine sarcoma - This cancer forms in the connective tissue (stroma) and muscle cells in the walls of the uterus. Uterine sarcoma is much less common than endometrial cancer.
Risk factors for uterine cancer
No one knows exactly what causes uterine cancer to form. If you have any of these risk factors, you may be at higher risk of developing uterine cancer:
• Age – This type of cancer occurs most often in women over age 50.
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – Women may chose to take hormones to reduce the symptoms of menopause, to prevent osteoporosis, or to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Taking estrogen without also taking progesterone can cause an increased risk of uterine cancer.
• Endometrial hyperplasia –This condition is marked by an increase in the number of cells in the lining of the uterus. It can cause heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after menopause. Women with endometrial hyperplasia are at increased risk of developing uterine cancer.