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Signs and symptoms

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge after menopause

  • Prolonged periods or bleeding between periods

  • Pelvic pain or cramping

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Difficult or painful urination

  • Unexpected weight loss
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The good news

Uterine cancer cannot be prevented, but if caught early, it can often be cured. Report any abnormal vaginal bleeding ― regardless of age ― to your doctor.

Uterine cancer is one of four cancers that have a higher than 95 percent five-year relative survival rate if caught early. When uterine cancer moves to distant parts of the body, the survival rate reduces to less than 24 percent.

Survival Rates
Source: American Cancer Society
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Questions & Answers

Joseph R. Betancourt, M.D.
Director of the Disparities Solutions Center,
Massachusetts General Hospital
1. Why is exercise recommended to reduce stress?

Exercise is shown to increase the amount of endorphins our body produces. Endorphins, which are associated with the feeling of a “runner’s high,” are special chemicals that can reduce pain and improve our mood. Exercise — whether a walk during lunch or a game of baseball, basketball, football or soccer — can be therapeutic by helping distract us from the challenges and problems of the day. It also helps burn up some of that extra energy while we are in a high-stress state.

2. Do people get stressed about unpleasant events only?

Not necessarily. Any circumstance that requires a response or adjustment on our part can result in stress. Take Christmas, for example. Although the holidays are generally festive, many are stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to get done during this time. Even a new job, a move to a different city or the birth of a child can cause stress.

3. How does stress affect the heart?

When we get stressed, our bodies respond by releasing certain hormones into our bloodstream to help us deal with the stress. These hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, cause our heart to pump faster; speed up blood flow, which increases blood pressure; and increase the release of stored fats into our bloodstream. If you are continually stressed (chronic stress), over time these responses can cause our heart to overwork, which may contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease. Although stress alone will not cause hypertension or heart disease, it can exacerbate the symptoms in those who have the conditions.

4. Why do some people who are stressed gain weight?

Everyone responds to stress differently. While some may lose their appetite, others may overeat. It is not uncommon to see changes in lifestyle when we are stressed. For instance, we often exercise less, have irregular eating habits and/or overeat foods high in fat and calories. After a hectic day, it is sometimes easier and more relaxing to order the take-out pizza for dinner instead of preparing our meals. Managing your stress is an important way to fight off weight gain. If you are feeling stressed, try meditating (even if it’s just 10 minutes to yourself) or praying, or even doing something that makes you laugh. Also, try to keep some healthy snacks like carrots and water in easy reach, while keeping up with some physical activity like taking the stairs at work or planning one day of the week to go to the gym.

5. Is a person more likely to get sick when he or she is stressed?

Yes. When we are stressed, our body releases a chemical that gives us more energy to fuel our muscles, but also slows down our digestive and immune systems. The immune system helps the body fight bacteria, viruses and other unwanted intruders. When we are stressed and our immune system is compromised, we become more susceptible to various illnesses, such as the common cold. That is why it is important to manage your stress properly.

6. Why does deep breathing help relieve stress?

When we are under stress, our body revs up, increasing our heart rate and getting our muscles ready for physical activity (think of the saying “nervous wreck”). By taking deep breaths (about five seconds to inhale and five seconds to exhale), we restore the balance in our body. Deep breathing relaxes our muscles, restores our heart rate and helps relax the mind. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. This is a simple stress management tool that can be done anywhere, from the office to the parking lot or at home.

Marina C. Cervantes of the Disparities Solutions Center participated in the preparation of these responses.