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Uterine and cervical cancer are different in a number of ways, including their causes. Another difference between uterine and cervical cancer is their location within the female body. Uterine cancer is sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer, or cancer of the tissue lining the inside of the uterus, because it usually starts in the endometrium. Cervical cancer also starts in the uterus, but in the thin, flat cells on the surface of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus. Uterine cancer is about three times more common than cervical cancer, and it is more likely to be diagnosed early.
The factors that seem to cause uterine and cervical cancer differ. Doctors have found that uterine cancer occurs more frequently in women who have an excess of estrogen, which is a reproductive hormone. The extra estrogen can cause the lining of the uterus to thicken and cancer cells to grow. Uterine cancer usually is found in its early stages, through a routine Papanicolaou test, or Pap smear, and it can then be treated and cured.
Cervical cancer is usually caused by a viral infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Women who started having intercourse at a young age, who have had numerous sexual partners or who engage in sex without using a condom are at an increased risk for contracting HPV and for developing cervical cancer. Abnormal cervical cells can be detected through regular Pap smears and medical exams.
The symptoms of uterine and cervical cancer are different as well. Symptoms of uterine cancer can include abnormal vaginal bleeding after menopause, pain or unexpected weight loss. Cervical cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced, because many patients do not experience any symptoms until the cancer has spread. As it progresses, cervical cancer causes abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Women between the ages of 60 and 70 are more likely to be diagnosed with uterine cancer. Diabetes, obesity, infertility and infrequent periods can increase a woman’s risk of uterine cancer. Poor economic status can be a risk factor for cervical cancer. Women who cannot afford to have regular exams and Pap smears are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Those who have compromised immune systems are also at a higher risk of contracting cervical cancer.