Uterine cancer on the rise: NJ oncologist says she knows why
There's no evidence of disease in Browns Mills resident Carole Newborn-Steepy, who learned just 10 months ago that she had uterine cancer.
The 59-year-old was wise enough to make a trip to her gynecologist after noticing some untimely bleeding, and got eyes on the problem in its early stages.
Newborn-Steepy underwent a robotic hysterectomy three weeks after her diagnosis, and subsequent testing revealed the cancer had not spread elsewhere.
"I feel really good, I feel confident," Newborn-Steepy said.
Her story is a bright spot in a much darker overall picture. The death rate from uterine cancer has risen nationwide by 21 percent from 1999 to 2016. Diagnoses of the cancer, the fourth-most common among women, climbed by 12 percent from 1999 to 2015.
Uterine cancer is one of the few forms of the disease with increasing incidence and mortality in the United States.
Dr. Emily Gleimer, a gynecologic oncologist with Marlton-based Virtua, said while part of the uptick may be due to an increased number of women seeking medical help when they notice symptoms, the trend is likely linked mostly to poor health habits.
"One of the biggest risk factors for developing uterine cancer, an endometrial cancer, is actually obesity," Gleimer, Newborn-Steepy's surgeon, told New Jersey 101.5. "Because that's definitely on the rise in this country, I think that is contributing to those numbers."
Newborn-Steepy, who is obese, has lost 20 pounds since February. Other health issues limit her physical activity, but she's adjusted her eating habits greatly.
The latest statistics suggest New Jersey's obesity rate among adults is 27.3 percent. More than 31 percent of indviduals aged 45 to 64 in New Jersey are considered obese.
"Don't wait. Try to eat healthy. Try to be active," Newborn-Steepy advises other women.
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting, during or after menopause, Gleimer said. Women who experience these symptoms "need to be seen by their gynecologist, and it needs to be worked up."
"It's really important that we diagnose this early because it does have a really good prognosis if we catch it early, and the treatment is pretty straightforward," Gleimer said. "The five-year survival rate for Stage 1 disease is approximately 80 to 90 percent."
The majority of women diagnosed before their menopause years, Gleimer said, are morbidly obese and/or had been at risk due to genetics.