Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus, and on imaging tests like ultrasounds, the lining is referred to as the endometrial stripe, according to the gynecologic oncologist Dr. Kate O'Hanlan. Increased thickening of the endometrial stripe may be indicative of precancerous or cancerous changes in the uterus and needs to be evaluated promptly. Once the underlying cause of the endometrial thickening is determined, treatment can be administered.
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According to Marcy Holmes, a nurse practitioner on the website womentowomen.org, endometrial hyperplasia describes an abnormal and excessive overgrowth of cells in the inner lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. This is not a cancerous condition in itself, but needs to be monitored and treated to help reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer, as the multiplying of cells can result in precancerous cell changes, says Holmes. Approximately one-third of women with endometrial hyperplasia will later develop endometrial cancer, oncologychannel.com states. Symptoms of this condition include heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods and extended periods of time without menstruating, says oncologychannel.com. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that the hormone progesterone is a commonly used treatment for the condition, and in cases where the endometrial cells are significantly abnormal and there is a risk of cancer developing, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
Women taking Tamoxifen for breast cancer may experience a thickened endometrium as a side effect of the medication, says Dr. Charles Loprinzi of breastcancer.org. Tamoxifen is a drug known as a selective estrogen receptor modulator, or SERM, says womentowomen.com. This medication prevents the growth of breast cancer cells that are stimulated by estrogen; conversely, the drug reinforces estrogen activity in the uterus, according to womentowomen.org, resulting in a thickening of the endometrium, endometrial hyperplasia and an increased risk of uterine cancer. Women on Tamoxifen should be closely monitored for any abnormal bleeding or changes in the uterine lining.
According to the American Cancer Society, endometrial cancer, also called uterine cancer, is cancer originating from the endometrium. There are different kinds of uterine cancers, but endometrial cancers are typically classified as carcinomas or adenocarcinomas. More than 80 percent of endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas, says the American Cancer Society, and are called endometrioid. Endometrioid cancers are composed of cancer cells in glands resembling the endometrium. Endometrial cancers are classified into three different grades that describe their severity and aggressiveness. Risk factors for developing endometrial cancer as listed by the American Cancer Society include fluctuating hormone levels, estrogen therapy, obesity, having polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian tumors and older age. Symptoms of the disease are unusual bleeding or spotting, pelvic pain, weight loss, abnormal vaginal discharge or a pelvic mass.