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Uterine Cancer Malpractice Lawsuits

Uterine cancer (cancer of the uterus) is diagnosed in over 60,000 women each year, making it one of the most common types of cancer among females. Uterine cancer is often the primary injury in personal injury cases because it has been linked to exposure to certain chemicals and it sometimes negligently misdiagnosed by doctors. This page will provide a medical overview of uterine cancer and discuss some emerging product liability cases involving uterine cancer.

About the Uterus

The uterus (also known as the “womb”) is biggest organ in the female reproductive system. It is where the fetus grows during pregnancy and it is composed of 3 separate sections: (1) cervix, (2) isthmus, and (3) fundus.

The wall of the uterus has 3 distinct layers. The inner layer on the inside of the uterus is call the endometrium. The middle and thickest layer is the myometrium and it is almost entirely made of muscle tissue. The serosa is the outermost layer.

During a woman’s reproductive years, the endometrium thickens each month following ovulation in preparation for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, this thickened endometrial layer sheds and results in the monthly menstruation cycle.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is cancer in which the tumor originates in the uterus. Uterine cancer is the most common type of female reproductive cancer. Each year, around 65,000 women are diagnosed with uterine cancer in the U.S. Uterine cancer is actually a general term used to describe 2 different types of cancer originating in the uterus: (1) endometrial cancer, and (2) uterine sarcoma.

Endometrial Cancer: endometrial cancer (also called “adenocarcinoma”) is the more common form of uterine cancer. The endometrial type of uterine cancer occurs when the cancerous cells form into a tumor in the endometrial tissue (the inner lining of the uterus). There are different subtypes of endometrial cancer, the most common is called endometrioid carcinoma.

Uterine Sarcoma: uterine sarcoma is the other type of uterine cancer. It occurs when the cancer forms in the middle layer of the uterus (myometrium) which is mostly muscle, or in the supporting tissue of the uterine glands. This form of uterine cancer is much less common, accounting for only 10% of all uterine cancer cases. The subtypes of uterine sarcoma are leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma, and undifferentiated sarcoma.

Uterine Cancer Statistics

In the United States, an estimated 65,950 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2022, making it the fourth most common cancer type among women. Since the early 2000s, the rate of uterine cancer cases in the United States has gradually increased by an average of 1% annually.

The 5-year survival rate (all stages) for uterine cancer is very good at 81%, and it is even higher for the endometrial form of uterine cancer, which is the most common. One of the primary reason uterine cancer has such as good survival rate is that it is usually diagnosed at a relatively early stage. The early diagnosis of uterine cancer is largely due to the fact that abnormal vaginal bleeding is almost always the first symptom.

When uterine cancer is diagnosed in early stages (before spreading beyond the uterus) the 5-year survival rate jumps up to 95%. When diagnosed at stage (when cancer has spread regionally only), the 5-year survival rate drops to 69%. Around 12,500 women die from uterine cancer annually.

Treatment Options for Uterine Cancer

Standard treatment for uterine cancer usually involves surgery along with some combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. Surgical treatment for uterine cancer involves a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus and cervix. In some cases, a radical hysterectomy will be done to remove the uterus, cervix and upper section of the vagina.

In addition to a hysterectomy, many uterine cancer patients will also have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. This is a defense against the potential spread of the cancer to these related organs.

For patients with stage 3 uterine cancer, pelvic radiation therapy is usually required in addition to surgery. Radiation therapy is for uterine cancer is usually done after the hysterectomy surgery to kill any lingering cancer cells. In some cases, however, radiation therapy is done before surgery to shrink the tumor.

Chemotherapy is frequently done after surgery for uterine cancer to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Chemo can be done in addition to or instead of radiation treatment. Depending on the subtype of uterine cancer, hormone therapy drugs may also be part of the treatment plan.

Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer

Most cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed after the patient experiences early symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding and/or abdominal pain and an endometrial biopsy is performed. The endometrial biopsy involves taking a small sample of the endometrial tissue for review by a pathologist. This type of biopsy is usually very accurate.

Several diagnostic imaging tools can also be used to diagnosis uterine cancer or assess the extent of the disease after diagnosis. These include a transvaginal ultrasound, a CT scan, or MRI.

Risk Factors for Uterine Cancer

There are a number of known risk factors that make some women more likely to develop uterine cancer than others. The established risk factors for uterine cancer include:

  • Age: uterine cancer is very rare among women under age 50, and the average age at diagnosis is 60.
  • Obesity: being overweight is a risk factor because excess fat tissue produces more estrogen and high estrogen levels are known to be associated with uterine cancer.
  • Genetics: women with a family history of cancer are at higher risk. This is particularly true if there is a family history of uterine cancer (or other female reproductive cancers) or colon cancer.
  • Estrogen: It has recently been discovered that long-term exposure to estrogen (the female sex hormone) and an overproduction or imbalance of estrogen in the body, is related to a significantly increased risk of uterine cancer.

Hair Relaxer Products May Cause Uterine Cancer

The most recent scientific research has shown that long-term use of chemical hair relaxer or hair straightener products may significantly increase the risk of uterine cancer. Hair relaxers are product mostly used by African American women to make their hair lay flat. These product contain high levels of chemicals that are know to interfere with the product of hormones such as estrogen.

In October 2022, the results of long term study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called the “Sister Study” were published in a leading medical journal. The Sister Study found that women who used chemical hair relaxer products at least 4 times per year for long time periods were 150% more likely to develop uterine cancer.

The groundbreaking results of the Sister Study have already prompted the start of what could be thousands of hair relaxer lawsuits.

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