By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
According to Cancer Research UK uterine cancer has risen by a fifth over the past decade.
Figures show that the number of diagnoses remained static for many years, but has increased by 43% since the 1990s. As the number of womb cancer cases have increased over the last decade, so have the number of womb cancer deaths. However, survival has also improved during that period, with 77% of women who are diagnosed with womb cancer now surviving for five years or more.
Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and the ninth most common cause of cancer death in women in the UK. The cancer is most common in post-menopausal women, with cases peaking in women between the ages of 60 and 79 years.
The report adds that in 1997-1998 there were 13.7 womb cancer cases per 100,000 women, but by 2010 the number of cases had increased to 19.6 per 100,000 women. This equates to a 43% rise in diagnoses in little more than a decade. While such an increase is obviously worrying, it should be noted that a 43% increase is a relative figure, and that, in absolute terms, this amounts to an additional 60 cases diagnosed per 1 million women each year. In the same period cases of many other cancers have fallen.
From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, annual deaths due to womb cancer had steadily fallen, from 4.7 womb cancer deaths per 100,000 women to 3.2 per 100,000. Since the early 2000s, however, the number of deaths each year began to climb, from 1,481 womb cancer deaths in 2000 (3.1 per 100,000) to 1,937 deaths in 2010 (3.7 per 100,000). This equates to a 17.9% increase in the number of deaths per year over the course of the decade. In absolute terms, this equates to an additional 6 deaths per 1 million women each year.
Cancer Research UK does report that experts believe obesity could be a key factor in the increasing number of diagnoses, but also points out that “we don’t yet fully understand what’s driving up cases of womb cancer”. In addition to obesity, there are several other risk factors for womb cancer, including not having children.
The signs and symptoms of uterus cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding (including bleeding in post-menopausal women, unusually heavy bleeding, bleeding between periods and unusual vaginal discharge), lower abdomen pain and pain during sex. Women with these symptoms need to get screened and tested since early diagnosis can improve the chances of successful treatment.