Uterine Sarcoma: Risk Factors
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Risk factors for a certain type of cancer might include smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. The exact cause of someone’s cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer.
Things you should know about risk factors for cancer:
Risk factors can increase a person's risk, but they do not necessarily cause the disease.
Some people with 1 or more risk factors never develop cancer. Other people can develop cancer and have no risk factors.
Some risk factors are very well known. But there is ongoing research about risk factors for many types of cancer.
Some risk factors, such as family history, may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change. Knowing the risk factors can help you make choices that might lower your risk. For example, if an unhealthy diet is a risk factor, you may choose to eat healthy foods. If excess weight is a risk factor, your healthcare provider may check your weight or help you lose weight.
Who is at risk for uterine sarcoma?
Risk factors for uterine sarcoma include:
Radiation therapy to the pelvis. Treatment with radiation in this area for another type of cancer puts a woman at higher risk. Radiation damages even healthy cells, which may make cancer develop. When cancers do occur because of this exposure, it usually happens 5 to 25 years after the radiation treatment.
Being African American. African-American women are at higher risk than other women. Doctors don't know why.
Having had retinoblastoma. This is a type of eye cancer caused by an abnormal gene. It’s linked to a higher risk of uterine sarcoma.
What are your risk factors?
Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for uterine sarcoma and what you can do about them. There are no screening tests for uterine sarcoma for women who don’t have symptoms. But regular pelvic exams and Pap smears can help find problems.
If your doctor thinks you are at high risk, he or she can check for uterine sarcoma in these 2 ways:
Endometrial sampling. Your doctor takes a small sample of cells from the lining of your uterus. This sample is also called an endometrial biopsy. It can usually be done in the doctor's office. To do this, your doctor inserts a thin flexible tube through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus. Your doctor then uses suction to take out some cells through this tube. A doctor looks at the cells under a microscope to check for cancer. Another test called a dilation and curettage (D&C) is sometimes used to take larger endometrial samples. This is usually done in the operating room. Medicines are used to make you sleep and not feel pain. Endometrial sampling is not as good at finding uterine sarcoma as it is for finding endometrial cancer.
Transvaginal ultrasound. Your doctor puts a probe into your vagina. The probe sends out sound waves that echo off the walls of your uterus and other pelvic organs. A computer turns these sound waves into an image on a screen. In this way, your doctor can see pictures of the inside of your uterus and the muscle wall of the uterus. The pictures may show if there is a tumor.
Neither of these tests is fully accurate. It’s possible that your doctor may not be able to find cancer, even if it’s there. It’s also possible that it might look like you have cancer when you don’t. If needed, your doctor can confirm if you have cancer by doing more tests.