And because excess fat tissue can produce extra estrogen, obese women are significantly more likely to develop endometrial cancer, Dr. Brawley said. Those who take estrogen without progesterone are also at increased risk of developing cancer, he added. To manage that risk, when doctors prescribe estrogen to manage hot flashes, they should also prescribe progesterone, he said.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are also risk factors, said Dr. Ginger Gardner, gynecologic oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. And, as with many other forms of cancer, family history may play a role, she added. Women with family members who have been diagnosed with uterine cancer should be especially vigilant about monitoring symptoms.
What are the first symptoms to monitor ?
Abnormal bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer, Dr. Brawley said, especially in postmenopausal women. Dr. Gardner said that if you have vaginal bleeding after missing your period for a year or more, even light pink or brown spots or spots when you wipe yourself, you should talk to your gynecologist.
For younger women, a change in the bleeding pattern – including bleeding between periods and heavy bleeding in general – can be a symptom of uterine cancer, she added.
Dr. Andrea Jackson, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco who specializes in the care of black patients, said patients often overlook these changes in bleeding patterns. Anecdotally, she said her black patients, in particular, often don’t see it as a cause for concern, in part because many have co-occurring conditions like fibroids, which can also cause bleeding.
Skipping periods can also be a sign of worry, she said. If you’ve been missing a period for a while and aren’t postmenopausal or on hormonal birth control, you should talk to a gynecologist.
Other early symptoms of uterine cancer include pelvic pain or pressure. Patients may experience bloating or changes in their bowel habits, which can feel like constipation or diarrhea, Dr. Hinchcliff said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeing your doctor if symptoms persist for two weeks or more.
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