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A women's body undergoes numerous changes during her lifetime. Menopause is one such phase which is a natural biological process marking the end of a woman's menstrual cycle. The process starts in the mid-40s and 50s in most women characterised by symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, changing levels of oestrogen and progesterone and no menstrual period for about 12 months. It brings with it more than just hormonal and physical changes. In some cases, it may also raise concerns about cancer risks. It is important to realize that certain menopausal symptoms might mirror those of gynaecological cancers including uterine cancers, which are tumours that begin in the female reproductive organs.
Uterine cancer is the most common type of cancer that occurs in the reproductive system of a woman's body when the healthy cells in the uterus begin to change and grow uncontrolled, forming into a mass or tumour. Uterine cancer is different from cervical cancer (cancer confined to uterine cervix) and is broadly of two types - endometrial cancer occurring in the endometrium or the uterine lining and uterine sarcoma in the myometrium or the muscle wall of the uterus.
Symptoms of uterine cancers are as follows:
Uterine cancer may develop due to a number of reasons. The risk factors include:
Postmenopausal women are more likely to develop uterine and ovarian cancers. Abnormal uterine bleeding is the most prevalent sign of uterine cancer, which occurs in 75 per cent to 90 per cent of women with this type of cancer. It might be difficult to tell the difference between irregular bleeding and a typical menstrual period, especially during the menopausal transition.
Your risk of acquiring cancer rises with age. As a result of their age, women going through menopause have a higher risk of acquiring cancer. For women undergoing menopause beyond the age of 55 years, the chances of uterine cancer are higher due to increased oestrogen exposure owing to longer menstrual period cycles.
Some safe and healthy ways to manage menopause symptoms include:
The chances of cancer risk before and after menopause can be considerably reduced by leading a healthy lifestyle, with small yet significant changes. Nevertheless, it is always advisable to consult a healthcare expert in case any of the symptoms or changes are health are noticed in overall health.
(This article is authored by Dr Ajay Mehta, Director & Consultant Surgical Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Nagpur)