Can womb cancer be prevented?
Womb cancer, or endometrial cancer as it is sometimes called, is the 4th most common female cancer in UK and can affect women of all ages.
Latest available statistics from CRUK say 26 women a day, or over 9,300 women each year are diagnosed, and the numbers are increasing by about 10% every year.
As with all cancers, the risk of developing womb cancer depends on a number of factors and varies from woman to woman. The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of being diagnosed.
Some risk factors are called “lifestyle risks” and these include things like being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. These are things that you have control over and you need to be aware that they can have a significant effect on whether you might be at risk of womb cancer.
Research suggests that about 4 in 10 cases of womb cancer in the UK – over 3,700 new cases a year - are caused by obesity.
Women who are overweight are generally 2 or 3 times more likely to develop womb cancer than women who are a normal weight. Women who are very obese may increase their risk by up to 6 times.
Having excess body fat means that you also have excess oestrogen which drives most types of womb cancer so loosing weight may help reduce your risk of getting womb cancer.
Figures shown that whilst obesity accounts for around 40% of womb cancer diagnoses that still leaves around 60% of women who get diagnosed with womb cancer and are anything but obese.
Other risk factors include things that you don’t necessarily have control over. Although womb cancer can affect women of any age, the risks increase as you get older. The vast majority, around 90% of womb cancer cases, are in post menopausal women but the number of younger women being diagnosed is on the increase and women should not think that because they are not post menopausal that they are not at risk.
We don't know what is behind the increase in the number of younger women being diagnosed with womb cancer but hopefully future research will help to find a cause.
We know of women as young as 20 who have been diagnosed so its obviously something that needs looking into.
Another risk factor is starting your periods early and having a family history of womb cancer. Certain other conditions like diabetes or PCOS can also increase your risk.
Things that can help reduce your risk of womb cancer include having children; the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy are believed to help protect women although there are still many women who have children who are diagnosed with womb cancer.
So what can a women do to prevent getting womb cancer? Well, it’s the usual things like keeping a healthy weight; be active; eat a healthy diet and avoid sugary drinks and foods.
You can’t completely prevent something like cancer happening but if you are aware of the things that increase your risk of getting it then you are less likely to get it.
We can't stress enough that any unexplained or unusual bleeding outside of your regular monthly period, (if you are pre menopausal) or any bleeding, even slight spotting (if you are post menopausal) should always be checked out by your GP. Please don't ignore it or put off going for a check up. It may not be womb cancer, but if it is then the earlier it is caught and treated the better.
Despite womb cancer being the 4th most common female cancer in UK there is no national awareness campaign, and apparently there are no plans for one.
We know there needs to be much more awareness so please help us in our quest to make sure that all women are aware of the facts by helping to distribute our awareness leaflets. If you use the contact form on the website and send me your address details I will pop some in the post to you.
They are great to leave in GP surgeries; clinics; health centres; libraries etc. Anywhere that women are likely to find them.
Always remember that heavy or unexplained bleeding is the most common symptom of womb cancer and needs to be checked out as soon as possible;