Uterine cancer is highly treatable when it is detected early. Knowing the risk factors as well as the symptoms of the disease is a critical step in early detection. The risk factors for developing uterine cancer include:
- Advanced age (most women are diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 69)
- A history of estrogen therapy or taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) for a lengthened period of time to treat the symptoms of menopause
- Endometrial hyperplasia, the abnormal overgrowth of the endometrium
- Menstruation onset prior to age 12
- Never having children
- Menopause onset after age 55
- A history of tamoxifen use for the treatment or prevention of breast cancer
- A history of radiation treatment to the pelvis
Not all women who develop uterine cancer will have one of these risk factors. And those who have multiple risk factors may never develop uterine cancer. That’s why it’s up to you to be aware of your health history and what is normal for your body. If you experience any of the symptoms of uterine cancer, or feel you are at an increased risk based on the list above, talk to your doctor.
Do You Have a Genetic Risk?
Like many cancers, there is also a genetic link associated with uterine cancer. A family history that includes a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with the disease puts women at greater risk. In addition, women who have an inherited form of colorectal cancer (known as Lynch syndrome) have a 60 percent higher risk of developing uterine cancer. Because of this, the agency recommends regular screening for patients under the age of 55 with a family history of Lynch syndrome.
At Roswell Park genetic counseling is a service provided by healthcare professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. During a genetic counseling consultation, information and support is provided to individuals who have a personal or family history of cancer and who may be at risk for an inherited condition like ovarian cancer. Information gathered is interpreted in terms of the risk for specific cancers, assessment for an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome, risk to children and other relatives, and options for screening and genetic testing.
NCCN recommendations state that young patients (under age 55) with uterine cancer and those with a significant family history of uterine/colorectal cancer should consider genetic testing to determine if genetic mutations (e.g., Lynch syndrome or Cowden syndrome) are the cause of the cancer. If genetic testing is recommended, blood tests will be performed to identify the presence of particular genes. These tests may confirm a specific gene change (mutation) as the likely cause of a diagnosed cancer and possibly modify medical management. Genetic testing is specific to an individual and family. All results are kept confidential and reviewed with the individual by a member of the Clinical Genetics Service.