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Understanding ovarian and endometrial cancer

  • 04.18.2015
By Jorge Perez, M.D., Ph.D., M.R.C.P., M.R.C. Path.
This article first appeared in the Sparks Tribune 
 
This article continues a series on gynecologic cancers, to help women understand and confront the disease.
Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women (not counting skin cancer). It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women. About 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2013, and 14,230 women died from the disease.
 
The following factors increase the risk of ovarian cancer: Age, as half of all cases are in women over 63; obesity; use of the fertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid®) for longer than one year, especially if the woman did not become pregnant; taking male hormone androgens; taking estrogen after menopause and family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer.
 
These factors reduce the risk of ovarian cancer: Having children, using birth control and having tubal ligation.
 
The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; trouble eating or feeling full quickly; urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency; fatigue; upset stomach; back pain; pain during sex; constipation; menstrual changes and abdominal swelling with weight loss.
 
Physicians treat ovarian cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy.
Ovarian and Endometrial Cancer - SNCC
Endometrial cancer starts in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. It is caused typically by conditions that affect estrogen levels.
 
About 49,560 new cases of endometrial cancer were diagnosed in 2013, and about 8,190 women died as a result of endometrial cancer.
 
The following factors increase the risk of endometrial cancer: Estrogen therapy without progesterone to treat menopause; having more menstrual cycles during a woman's lifetime; obesity; ovarian tumor, breast or ovarian cancer; having polycystic ovarian syndrome; age; high-fat diet; having diabetes; family history; previous pelvic radiation therapy and endometrial hyperplasia.
 
For postmenopausal women, taking estrogen in combination with progestin does not increase the risk of endometrial cancer, but it does increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.
 
The following factors reduce the risk of endometrial cancer: Using birth control pills; having multiple pregnancies and using an IUD.
 
Endometrial cancer has the following signs and symptoms: Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or other discharge; pelvic pain or mass and weight loss.
 
Physicians treat endometrial cancer with surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy.
 
Watch for a future article to learn about other gynecologic cancers.
 
Dr. Perez is a medical oncologist with Sierra Nevada Cancer Center. He received his medical degree in his native Colombia. After practicing medicine there, he moved to England to complete a Ph.D. in cellular biochemistry and residency in internal medicine and in chemical pathology. He then completed fellowships in oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center and in hematology at Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston, Tex. After practicing in Texas, he brought his expertise and concern for cancer patients to northern Nevada. With several locations including one on the NNMC campus in Sparks, patients can reach Dr. Perez at 775-883-3336.
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