Approximately 2.7% of women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer (cancer of the womb) during their lifetimes. There are many different causes and risk factors for developing uterine cancer, including genetics, environment, and chance. As with most cancers, a specific cause for the great majority of uterine cancers cannot be identified. Rather it is likely that there are multiple factors which play a part in the development of the cancer.
Some things that are known to increase the risk for uterine cancer are:
A small number of all uterine cancers are due to a genetic reason such as Lynch syndrome. However, families that show multiple relatives with uterine or colon cancer, early onset (under age 50) of uterine cancer, or being diagnosed with a new primary cancer multiple times may want to consider genetic counseling and possibly genetic testing for Lynch syndrome.
There are other less common hereditary predispositions to uterine cancer associated with other genes such as PTEN (Hamartoma Tumor syndrome/Cowden syndrome), TP53 (Li Fraumeni syndrome), STK11, and POLD1 (polymerase proofreading-associated polyposis syndrome).
If you have risk factors for endometrial cancer, it is important to discuss this with your gynecologist so that they can discuss warning signs and screening options. Healthcare providers may offer regular exams or ultrasounds of the pelvis to look for any concerning changes in the uterus/womb. Sometimes biopsies are used to see if these changes are cancerous even at an early stage. Finally, women at high risk of uterine cancer may be eligible to have their uterus removed through surgery to prevent a cancer (called a prophylactic hysterectomy).
Approximately 1 in 78 women (about 1.2%) will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during their lifetimes. There are many different causes and risk factors for developing ovarian cancer, including genetics, environment, and chance. As with most cancers, a specific cause for the great majority of ovarian cancers cannot be identified. Rather it is likely that there are multiple factors which play a part in the development of the cancer.
There are three different types of cells within the ovary. Germ cells produce eggs, stromal cells produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, and epithelial cells cover the surface of the ovary. There are many types of ovarian tumors in all three types of cells which can be benign or malignant (cancerous), however the majority of malignant ovarian cancers (90%) begin in the epithelial cells (called carcinomas).
Some of the factors that are known to increase the risk for this more common epithelial ovarian cancer are:
If you have risk factors for ovarian cancer, it is important to discuss this with your gynecologist so that they can discuss warning signs and screening options. Healthcare providers may offer regular exams or ultrasounds of the pelvis to look for any concerning changes in the uterus/womb. Blood tests to look for a marker of ovarian cancer (called CA-125) can also be used, but as of now the combination of pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests has not been shown to be an effective method of diagnosing ovarian cancer at an early stage.
Women at high risk of ovarian cancer may be eligible to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed through surgery to prevent a cancer (called a prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). Many ovarian cancers are thought to originate in the nearby fallopian tubes, so it is recommended to remove the tubes along with the ovaries.
Click here to learn more about scheduling a genetic counseling appointment for questions about hereditary cancer predisposition.
*Positive Results Facebook Group
Genetic Support Foundation hosts a Facebook group for Hereditary Cancer Support and Resources. Get trusted information and join a community of support.
*Cascade Screening Connector
Genetic Support Foundation has partnered with the Washington State Department of Health to provide cascade screening to help people identify and contact family members who may have an increased chance of developing cancer.
*FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered)
The FORCE mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families facing hereditary cancer. Resources include peer navigation and expert-reviewed information.
*AliveAndKicknAliveAndKickn is a nonprofit working to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by Lynch Syndrome and associated cancers through research, education, and screening.
*Health Experiences USAThis national research project brings patient voices into the healthcare experience and features video clips of people facing hereditary cancer. Individuals from a variety of backgrounds share both positive and negative experiences about living with hereditary cancer.
Schedule a personalized consultation with one of our certified genetic counselors.