Diagnosing endometrial cancer
- Pelvic examination: An examination of the genitals will be done. Index and middle finger will be inserted into the vagina while pressing the other hand on the abdomen to feel the uterus and ovaries. A speculum device will be inserted to examine the vagina to look for any abnormalities of the cervix and vagina.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: Sound waves is an effective method of screening for endometrial cancer to see the thickness and texture of the endometrium. Transducer is a device that will inserted into the vagina. The objective of a transducer is to create a moving image of the uterus with the help of sound wave, showing the abnormalities present within the endometrium.
- Hysteroscopy: A procedure done by inserting a thin, flexible tube with a light into the uterus through the vagina and cervix. Doctor can examine the inside of the uterus and endometrium.
- Endometrial biopsy: A procedure done by inserting a thin, flexible tube through the cervix to remove of a sample tissue from inside the uterus. Once the samples have been collected, they will be sent to the laboratory for analysis. This involves removing tissue from your uterine lining for laboratory analysis.
- Surgical removal of tissue sample: If biopsy cannot retrieve enough tissue samples or results come are unclear, dilation and curettage (D&C) may be required. This procedure is done by scraping off tissues from the lining of the uterus for examination under a microscope to check for cancer.
Staging endometrial cancer
After the diagnosis of endometrial cancer, staging is the next process of diagnosis by a chest X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan and blood tests. The first stage (Stage I) signifies that the growth of the cancer has not exceeded outside the uterus and Stage IV signifies that the cancer has grown and spread to the surrounding tissues, such as the bladder or other parts of the body.
Endometrial cancer is treated by surgical removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Radiation therapy can also be a treatment option. Chemotherapy can be used as well. Hormone therapy helps blocking hormones which cancer cells depend on. Targeted therapy is an alternative treatment which uses certain drugs to attack specific cancer cells while immunotherapy work with the immune system to fight against cancer.
Hysterectomy is surgical procedure to remove uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Removal of ovaries will lead to early menopause. The surrounding areas of the uterus will be inspected to see if cancer has metastasized. Lymph nodes may be removed to determine the stage of the cancer.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells. Radiation is given to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence in post surgery, and can be given before the surgery to reduce the tumor size for easier removal.
For patients who cannot undergo surgery, radiation can be an alternative treatment.
- Radiation given externally or through a machine outside the body. During this procedure, the machine aims radiation on specific parts of the body.
- Radiation internally or through a machine inside the body. This step is done by placing a device (small seeds, wires or a cylinder) filled with radiation inside of the vagina.
Chemotherapy is drug that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. A combination or a single drug can be given. Chemotherapy comes in a form of a pill or intravenously.
Sometimes, chemotherapy is given prior the surgery to shrink the cancer so it will be easier to remove, or after the surgery to decrease the chance for cancer to relapse.
Chemotherapy may be suggested to treat advanced stage of endometrial cancer when it has metastasized or when the cancer reoccurs.
Hormone therapy is the intake of medications to decrease the level of hormones in the body. As a result, cancer cells that grow by depending on hormones may die. Hormone therapy may be alternative treatment for patients with endometrial cancer further from the uterus.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted therapy attacks the cancer cells. The drug kills cancer cells by stopping the weak factors. Advanced endometrial cancer is often treated with the combination of targeted drug therapy and chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy uses drugs to help the immune system to fight against cancer. Naturally, the immune system may not be able to harm cancer because cancer cells create proteins which immune system cannot detect. Immunotherapy interferes with this natural process.