“Here’s How I Knew I Had Uterine Cancer”: One Patient’s Story After Spotting a Tell-Tale Sign

Updated: May 22, 2024

This type of uterine cancer comes with an obvious symptom—fortunately. One woman recounts her journey, and emphasizes the importance of adhering to your yearly exams: "I knew I would be in good hands."

Uterine cancers, encompassing both endometrial cancers and uterine sarcomas, pose a significant concern in the realm of women’s health. Among these, endometrial cancer, which originates in the endometrium or the lining of the uterus, stands out as the most prevalent cancer affecting women’s reproductive organs in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society’s 2024 estimates, approximately 67,880 new cases of uterine cancer will be diagnosed across the nation, with an unfortunate projection of 13,250 women succumbing to this disease. These numbers account for both endometrial cancers and the rarer uterine sarcomas (a cancer originating in the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus), which make up 10% of uterine cancer cases, indicating slightly lower figures specifically for endometrial cancer incidences and fatalities.

Endometrial cancer predominantly affects postmenopausal women, with the average age at diagnosis being around 60 years. Says Jennifer Rubatt, MD, Gynecology Oncology Medical Director for AdventHealth’s Rocky Mountain Region: “The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Occasionally, there can be pelvic pain or pressure.”

Dr. Rubatt further notes that major risk factors for endometrial cancer include:

  • postmenopausal age
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • the use of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy.

Encouragingly, Dr. Rubatt shares an optimistic outlook for those diagnosed with endometrial cancer, thanks in part to the fact that it presents with an obvious symptom: “As this disease is usually diagnosed early, and in stage I confined within the uterus, the odds of beating endometrial cancer are very high. Ultimately, 95% of women with stage I endometrial cancer will be alive and without evidence of cancer five years from diagnosis.”

To illustrate the importance of early detection and medical consultation, we bring you the story of Sharyn, 63, from Colorado, a patient of Dr. Rubatt.

Ahead, Sharyn’s experience is a first-hand account of recognizing the early warning signs of uterine cancer and the significance of seeking prompt medical advice upon noticing symptoms.

How I knew I had uterine cancer

By Sharyn, as told to Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO

It all began with symptoms I attributed to my existing fibroids. Still, as events unfolded, I was on the verge of uncovering a deeper truth. I am forever thankful I never skip those yearly health checkups.

When I first saw my new OBGYN, she immediately noticed something that had previously gone unmentioned at other gynecologic visits: My uterus was enlarged. During that initial exam, she suggested an ultrasound to establish a baseline for my fibroids, advising me not to worry unless I started to notice some bleeding. Fast forward seven months, and there it was—the bleeding and a little bit of discharge that propelled me into action, though I must confess that I hesitated at first, hoping it would resolve on its own.

It didn’t.

Two months later, I realized ignoring it wasn’t an option. A follow-up ultrasound showed the fibroids had grown slightly, yet nothing seemed too concerning.

However, a biopsy in June 2022 brought everything into stark reality. The call from my OBGYN, informing me I had a type of uterine cancer called endometrial cancer, was a jolt out of the blue. No one in my family has dealt with a cancer like this, I remember thinking. That phone call began a battle I hadn’t planned for but was fully prepared to take on.

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Treatment after being diagnosed with uterine cancer

Following my diagnosis of endometrial cancer, a type of uterine cancer, I was referred to Dr. Rubatt for my care, and I immediately knew I would be in good hands.

Together with Dr. Rubatt, we decided on a comprehensive plan, starting with a total hysterectomy to excise the cancer. I was also given the choice to choose my treatment path after: Chemotherapy, radiation, or both. I opted for both, determined to minimize any risk of the cancer making a comeback. Despite being caught at stage one, the high-grade nature of my cancer suggested urgency. If it were allowed to advance, there could be a significant risk of it penetrating even more into the myometrium (muscle layer of the uterus), which would complicate matters further.

The treatment journey was not without its challenges. My body reacted poorly to the first chemotherapy medication, leading to a fainting episode, but thankfully, my medical team was there and quickly adjusted my treatment plan.

The following sessions were switched with a different medication, which, while easier on my system, didn’t entirely spare me from bouts of nausea. A particularly hard part of my treatment was the painful injection to boost my white blood cell count, something that I needed to get if I were to continue through my chemo treatments.

Looking back now, it was a lot to endure, but not as bad as I feared—something I am truly grateful for. (And, believe it or not, losing my hair was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, simplifying my daily routine in ways I hadn’t anticipated.)

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Life after surviving uterine cancer

Currently, my routine includes clinic visits every three months for regular checkups as I near the two-year anniversary of my last uterine cancer treatment this coming November. This milestone is particularly meaningful, dramatically reducing the likelihood of the cancer returning.

These visits also offer peace of mind, ensuring that any potential issues are caught early.

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Reflections on what I’ve learned

I am grateful to share my story today, and if there’s any wisdom I can impart, these three insights stand out:

Lesson 1: Regular checkups are essential

You need to have regular checkups. Amid the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to let our health take a back seat, but these checkups are a must. They serve as a reminder to care for ourselves, pay attention to our bodies, and take action by arranging those essential appointments.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to symptoms

The type of cancer I faced made itself known through symptoms, unlike other cancers that advance without notice. Despite my initial hesitation, recognizing and acting on these warning signs was crucial. Do not ignore what your body is trying to tell you.

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The power of a strong support system cannot be overstated. My journey was fueled by the love and support of family and friends, from listening ears to home-cooked meals. Their presence significantly eased my recovery—healing significantly relies on emotional and social support, just as much as it does on the medical treatment itself.

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