I went in for my post-surgery follow up with my oncologist and he had great news for me: the cancer didn’t spread. My pathology report came back clean. My cancer was Stage 1a, Grade 1.
Stage and Grade Translation
So what exactly does staging or grading cancer mean?
Staging is related to the size of the tumor and how far it spread. Grading is how doctors describe the actual cells. In my case,
- Stage 1a – The cancer stayed in the uterus lining but just barely started pushing into the uterine muscle.
- Grade 1 – The cancer cells look like normal cells and are not growing rapidly.
My oncologist isn’t recommending any radiation or chemo. Basically the surgery cured me and there is less than a 10% chance of the cancer coming back. I’ll still need “aggressive” follow up, visiting my oncologist every 6 months for check ups rather coming back once a year. However…
2nd Opinion Required
My oncologist pointed to one potential problem: The size of the tumor. It was about 2 inches in diameter. While you may think 2 inches isn’t that big, when it comes to the uterus (and cancer), it’s a different story. The uterus isn’t that large and basically the tumor was “filling the cavity.”
This type of cancer is very slow moving and the size indicates it was there for at least a year. Yikes!
I had this thing in me for that long and showed no symptoms. Yes, I occasionally had a little spotting between periods, but as my fertility experts told me, that isn’t uncommon. My periods on occasion lasted between 5-8 days. Again, not that uncommon for a woman my age.
All my PAP spears and pelvic exams came back fine. But a PAP would only show if the cancer spread to my cervix. And pelvic exams don’t look for cancer.
It took estrogen and progesterone shots and pills, respectively, for my body to stop being so subtle in letting me know I had a serious health problem.
Because of my tumor size, my oncologist wants me to get a second opinion. I’m visiting with a radiology oncologist this week to review my case. So it is still possible that I may get some radiation treatment.
Cancer Genetic Testing For Lynch Syndrome
As an added bonus, I’m also going in for genetic testing this week. My doctor is looking to see if I have something called Lynch Syndrome, an inherited condition that increases my chances of digestive, gynecological or breast cancer.
I’m a candidate for 2 reasons:
- While uterine cancer is actually common, it isn’t that common for women under 50.
- Family history! My mother beat colon cancer 6 years ago and her sister is currently kicking breast cancer’s ass.
Thanks to my 2013 physical, I know that I have the genetic trait for colon cancer.
Like obesity, just because you have the genes for cancer doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer. As both my doctor and oncologist told me, the genes have to be activated via environmental factors.
In my case, my diet was the environmental factor that triggered both my obesity and cancer. My diet made me insulin resistant, which caused my obesity and very likely my cancer.
In unscientific terms, my insulin resistance caused my fat cells to grow over time (obesity). All those fat cells started pumping out way more estrogen than my body needed. This turned cells abnormal in my uterus. Over time those abnormal cells turned into uterine cancer.
Thanks to genetic testing, by knowing if I’m predisposed to other cancers, I can learn how to reduce those factors.
But with my healthy lifestyle firmly in place, I’m hopeful most environmental triggers are gone.
Radiation or No Radiation…That Is The Question
I meet with my oncologist in about a month to go over my genetic test results and the 2nd opinion. From there I’ll make the decision about radiation treatment. Right now I have less than a 10% chance of the cancer coming back. At best, radiation may cut that down slightly.
Does the benefit out weigh the potential problems that radiation can trigger? But that’s a discussion with my doctor and husband.
I’ve learned my lesson. I’m staying off The Google!