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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 00:02 GMT
Concern over womb cancer increase
Elderly woman with carer
Cases of womb cancer in the elderly are increasing
More women with womb cancer are surviving the disease, but cases among the over 60s are increasing, cancer experts say.

Five-year survival rates for womb cancer have risen 16% to 77% in the last 30 years, Cancer Research UK said.

But its figures also show incidence of the cancer among those aged 60 to 79 rose from 48 per 100,000 women in 1993 to 63 per 100,000 five years ago.

Cancer experts said better awareness of the disease would help survival rates.

EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
Bleeding after the menopause
Low pelvic pain

Cancer of the womb affects around 6,000 women in the UK each year - twice as many as cervical cancer - and accounts for 4% of all female cancers.

Womb - or uterine - cancer is the fifth most common form of the disease in women and is the second most common cancer of the female reproductive system, after ovarian cancer.

Despite treatment advances, around 1,500 women die from womb cancer each year.

The more advanced the disease is, the less likely a woman is to survive to the five-year mark.

The standard treatment for womb cancer is a hysterectomy - in which the womb is removed.

For women with early stage disease, no further treatment is usually necessary, but women with more advanced disease also need radiotherapy.

'Lowest in Europe'

Over 90% of womb cancers occur in women over the age of 50, and 75% are seen in women who have been through the menopause.

Awareness of the disease is low and consequently women may not be aware that vaginal bleeding after the menopause is a symptom of womb cancer.

Low pelvic pain is another symptom.

Lucy Boyd, an epidemiologist who compiled the Cancer Research UK report, said: "It's encouraging to see that the incidence of womb cancer in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, but the rise in cases in older women is a concern.

"We feel it is vitally important to raise awareness of this disease and encourage women to look out for the early symptoms.

"Survival rates would be even better if more women reported their symptoms to their doctor at an earlier stage."

She added: "It is unclear exactly what causes womb cancer, but there are some things that are known to increase a woman's risk.

"Overweight and obese women are twice as likely to develop womb cancer as women of a healthy weight.

"This is due to higher than normal exposure to the hormone oestrogen, the production of which is greater in overweight and obese women."

Other factors that increase risk include not having had children, late menopause and the drug tamoxifen, which is used to treat and prevent breast cancer.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "The improved survival rates are a result of the advances that have been made in successfully treating this disease.

"However, it is also clear that even more lives would be saved if awareness of this disease were better."




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