Montreal doctor sheds light on endometrial cancer

"This is the one cancer, of more than 90 cancers affecting women, that the death rate is rising," says Dr. Lucy Gilbert of endometrial cancer. She hopes to raise awareness among patients and medical practitioners. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and Dr. Lucy Gilbert, chair of the Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology is shedding light on endometrial cancer – the most common gynecologic cancer in Canada.

“It’s important that not only women are aware of it, but also gynecologists, general practitioners and other healthcare providers,” Dr. Gilbert says.

As the chief of service of the gynecologic oncology division at the McGill University Health Centre as well, she has dedicated her life to the early detection of women’s cancers while they’re still curable, in hopes of curbing a health issue that is on the rise. 

“Endometrial cancer has the steepest rise in incidence and death rate,” Dr. Gilbert told CityNews, adding “with most other cancers, even if the incidence rises, we’ve managed to get the death rates down, but we are struggling with endometrial cancer.”

According to Dr. Gilbert, it’s high-grade endometrial cancer that accounts for most of the disease’s related deaths. She says one symptom to look out for is irregular bleeding.

“Report any abnormal bleeding, even if it’s slight. […] Bleeding does not have to be heavy to be sinister. […] The good thing is endometrial cancer is rare in women under the age of 40. But 10% of endometrial cancer do occur in women under the age of 45,” the medical expert says.

She advises those who believe they’re experiencing symptoms to consult a medical practitioner, who will likely proceed with a biopsy and ultrasound. 

For treatment post diagnosis, “combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy up front makes a difference,” Dr. Gilbert says.

“It allows us to delay the recurrence [of endometrial cancer] and in a proportion of patients even achieve a cure.”

The gynecologic oncology expert is encouraged by the recent advances in science. 

“Women who I’d have thought were incurable, are achieving very, very good results. […] I’m quite optimistic,” she says.

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