Uterine Cancer on the Rise, Especially Among Black Women — Doctors Look Into Why

More women are being diagnosed with uterine cancer across the United States, particularly women of color, studies show.

Recent studies in JAMA Oncology show it’s not only more likely to impact Black women but also more likely to be deadly. It’s something University of Miami doctors are researching too.

“I have had to have pelvic exams every three months and I’ve been doing good,” said Doris Manley.

Manley is on the other side of what’s been a harrowing journey with type 2 uterine cancer.

“I first noticed mine, I’m (in) menopause, so why am I bleeding like this?” she said.

Manley was diagnosed with cancer in her uterus in 2015 at the age of 59.

It’s also known as endometrial cancer. There are two kinds, type 1 low grade, and type 2 is the high-grade, aggressive tumor.

Manley has undergone a hysterectomy, radiation and chemotherapy and is being treated by gynecologist Dr. Matthew Schlumbrecht at the University of Miami.

“We’ve seen for decades now that Black women are at higher risk for these high-grade endometrial cancers, and what this study shows is that the risk for these tumors increases across all racial and ethnic lines, but we continue to see a market increase for Black women specifically,” said Dr. Schlumbrecht.

The studies in JAMA Oncology found Black women are not only seeing the diagnosis more often but the death rates continue to rise father than any other group. The American Cancer Society reported a difference of 21% in five-year survival rates between Black women compared to white women.

Dr. Schlumbrecht says generally, Black women have been lumped into one big group when it comes to the studying of the diagnosis, but to understand the genesis of uterine cancer, you have to look deeper. That is what Dr. Schlumbrecht’s been researching.

“You’ve got a lower risk if you’re a Black woman born in the Caribbean and moved to the U.S. versus a Black woman born in the United States. Haitian women seem to have the highest rate amongst Caribbean women of these Type 2 cancers relative to women born in the Bahamas or Jamaica, and the important thing to think about is why is that happening why are these women different?” Dr. Schlumbrecht said.

It’s believed that it could be part genetic, part environmental.

“We need to be up on it. We really need to pay attention to our bodies. I don’t know why it’s happening but we need to pay attention,” Manley said.

Dr. Schlumbrecht encourages women that if there’s anything abnormal in your body, seek medical care — specifically if you’ve gone through menopause and you have any bleeding, you have to seek care with your gyno. If these cancers are found early, they can be curable.

There is no screening for uterine cancer, so listen to your body.

Manley, a mother of five and a grandmother to 13 grandchildren, is just thankful and has a message for other women.

“I just advise women to go to the doctor regularly, get exams just like they do for breasts,” she said. “Get your pelvic exams, your pap smear.”