Endometrial cancer affects the lining of the uterus, the endometrium. Malignant cells form in the lining, and sometimes spread to other parts of the reproductive systems and local lymph nodes. The intital phase of treatment involves a hysterectomy–the removal of the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The surgeon will also remove lymph nodes in the area as a precaution. In more advanced stages, radiation, chemotherapy and surgical removal of tumors may be required. For five years following, frequent tests help determine if cancers cells return.
Recurrent Endometrial Cancer
Recurrent endometrial cancer usually occurs within three years of the original cancer treatments. When the cancer returns, it forms in other areas because doctors removed the uterine during initial treatments. Recurring forms of the cancer may metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.
Some of the symptoms of recurring endometrial cancer are the same as during the early phases of the original cancer. Irregular vaginal bleeding is the earliest sign. The bleeding occurs in post-menopausal women and in between menstrual cycles in women who haven’t been through menopause. Sexual intercourse may be painful and cause bleeding. These symptoms happen because cancer cells form in the pelvic wall, vaginal areas or tissue that surrounded the uterus.
Depending on where the cancer cells have spread, other symptoms of recurrent cancer include back and pelvic pain, leg pain and swelling, chronic cough, weight loss and abdominal pain. If the endometrial cancer cells metastasize to the lymph system, lymph nodes might enlarge. Painful and difficult urination may also occur.
The cause of all of the symptoms of recurring endometrial cancer is the formation of mass of cancer cells, or tumors. As they infect other parts of the body, they remain endometrial cancer cells but form tumors in different places. The cells usually show up in the pelvic area, including the bladder and rectum, but can also spread to other areas, such as the abdomen, lungs and liver. It is important after the initial treatments for the cancer to remain vigilant about any changes in health, as they could indicate cancer cells returning.
If the recurrent endometrial cancer spreads outside of the pelvic area, the chance of curing it is very low. Women can experience relief from symptoms, however, through treatment such as hormone therapy. The prognosis for a five-year survival rate is approximately 5% once cancer cells metastasize outside of the pelvic region. It increases to 10% if it affects pelvic areas, including the bladder or rectum. The rate jumps to 60% if the endometrial cancer stays in the pelvic wall and surrounding lymph nodes.
Women’s Cancer Center: Uterus: Endometrial Carcinoma
National Cancer Institute: Endometrial Cancer Treatment
EMedicine Health: Cancer Symptoms, Signs and Types
Mayo Clinic: Endometrial Cancer: Symptoms