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What is Endometrial Adenocarcinoma?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Endometrial adenocarcinoma is a common form of gynecological cancer that primarily affects the endometrium, the lining of the uterine walls. This cancer occurs most frequently in postmenopausal women, though it can affect any female of reproductive age. The exact causes of this kind of adenocarcinoma are not well understood, but doctors believe that high levels of estrogen, hypertension, and obesity are significant risk factors. If the cancer goes undetected and untreated, it can quickly spread to other parts of the reproductive system. Surgery is usually effective at removing the cancerous tissue and preventing further medical complications.

Estrogen regulates the growth and health of endometrial tissue in women. An abnormally high level of estrogen can cause cells to become cancerous and proliferate throughout the endometrial tissue. Risk factors for increased hormone levels and endometrial adenocarcinoma include a family history of reproductive cancers, obesity, diabetes, and hormone therapy treatments for other conditions. Women who have suffered from other forms of cancer, especially breast, ovarian, or lung cancer, are at an increased risk of developing this condition.

A postmenopausal woman with endometrial cancer usually experiences abnormal vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, and frequent cramps. Women who have not yet experienced menopause may have irregular periods accompanied by excessive bleeding. Adenocarcinoma can also cause milky vaginal discharge in women of any age. As the cancer progresses, a woman might experience fatigue, weakness, and nausea. An individual who experiences any potential symptoms of this condition should schedule an appointment with a gynecologist immediately.

A gynecologist can conduct a series of tests to check for adenocarcinoma. A common diagnostic procedure known as a Pap test or Pap smear involves collecting small samples of surface endometrial cells for laboratory analysis. Specialists check samples for signs of adenocarcinoma and other common gynecological problems. If Pap smear results point to cancer, the gynecologist will usually conduct an ultrasound or collect a larger sample of tissue to determine the severity of the disease.

Treatment for endometrial adenocarcinoma typically involves surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are seldom used because they are generally less effective at eliminating this type of cancer. If adenocarcinoma is in its early stages, a surgeon can usually remove only the affected area of endometrial tissue. More severe or widespread cancer may require removal of the entire uterus in a procedure known as a hysterectomy. Following surgery, most patients are encouraged to schedule regular appointments with their gynecologists to ensure that all cancerous tissue has been removed.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1004160 — On Dec 01, 2020

This article is not totally accurate and should be fact-checked against a reputable medical source. I suggest the Society of Gynecologic Oncology or cancer.net.

Pap smears are NOT diagnostic tests for endometrial adenocarcinoma! Pap tests screen for abnormal cells of the lower cervix and/or vagina. Unless the cancer has already spread past the body of the uterus and the cervical canal, there is very little chance a pap smear will find them. There is NO routine "well woman" screening to determine endometrial adenocarcinoma. The most common diagnostic tool for finding endometrial adenocarcinoma is an endometrial biopsy. Occasionally, a D&C is required to gather more tissue, but a biopsy is the logical first step to patients presenting with abnormal bleeding and/or pelvic pain.

This is why it is imperative women experiencing any abnormal bleeding or pain that last for more than two weeks see their doctors. Bleeding post-menopause is never normal, and that alone will alert your gyn to the need for a biopsy (and possibly ultrasound.) For pre-menopausal women, bleeding between regular periods is a warning sign that needs to be addressed.

By croydon — On Oct 22, 2011

@Iluviaporos - I had a sister who had endometrial cancer and she only discovered it through her pap smear at a family planning clinic.

She had young children at the time, so the only way she could have afford the procedure was through the clinic, and I doubt she would have bothered if they didn't offer that service.

I just hope that all the people who have been helped by such services don't take them for granted, and do donate to them to keep them going.

By lluviaporos — On Oct 22, 2011

These kinds of conditions are the reason the family planning clinics are so very important. People get all hung up over the abortion issue and don't realize that that is only a very small part of their services. They have saved thousands of lives by providing free or very cheap smears for women who would otherwise not be able to afford them.

I almost wish they had a separate division that provided non-abortion/contraception services so that it could be kept safe whenever the funding is cut.

But then I feel like people should be compassionate and practical enough to realize that these services, which provide preventative care for endometrial and uterine cancers and the like, actually save the country money in the long run.

By umbra21 — On Oct 21, 2011

It is so important to get a regular pap smear.

I know it seems really uncomfortable and may seem like a particularly annoying procedure to go through once you've passed menopause and you feel like issues with that area should be over with.

But, it only takes a half hour out of your day and it can save your life. I've seen a lot of advertising about it lately, and I think they've got it right when they say that you aren't just doing it for you, you're doing it for all the people around you who love you and don't want you to leave this earth early from something like an endometrial tumor.

Just take the time and do it for them.

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