Endometrial cancer, or cancer of the lining of the uterus, is the most common malignant gynecological tumor. Fortunately, most women who have endometrial cancer have symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, long before it spreads to other parts of the body.
Several factors can contribute to the development of endometrial cancer, such as: obesity, irregular periods and family history. Currently, there is no effective diagnostic method for women who may be at risk for endometrial cancer. A diagnostic aid is ultrasound, transvaginal or placing the transducer through the vagina instead of over the abdomen can help doctors discover the nature of the symptoms.
A transvaginal ultrasound produces images of the internal organs when the transducer is placed inside the vagina. This allows doctors to get a better view of the uterus and ovaries. This procedure is particularly useful for treating postmenopausal women who have vaginal bleeding.
Postmenopausal and premenopausal women differ with respect to the endometrium. In premenopausal women (those who can have children) the lining of the uterus changes with the menstrual cycle, becoming very thick and able to nourish the fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized in the cycle and there is no pregnancy, the lining falls off and is eliminated during the menstrual period.
By contrast, normal postmenopausal women (those who have passed the fertile age) do not have a thickened endometrial lining, since they no longer produce the hormones that stimulate their growth. Therefore, these women should not have any type of vaginal bleeding. If this happens, you should immediately consult the doctor.
Most doctors use a transvaginal ultrasound and a biopsy, or tissue sample, of the endometrium to evaluate patients with postmenopausal bleeding. Ultrasound is used to determine the thickness of the endometrium, which should not exceed 4 to 5 mm. A normal thickness could reliably exclude cancer in most cases. However, endometrial biopsy is the most effective procedure, in addition to surgery, to confirm the diagnosis of endometrial cancer.