The third most deadly form of cancer in women, cancer of the uterus, or womb, will be detected in about 44,000 American women this year. It will kill about 14,000. More than two-thirds of the cancers occur in the cervix, or neck of the uterus; the remaining third develops in the body of the uterus.

Most deaths are preventable through use of the "Pap" test, a simple procedure that detects early cancer of the cervix. The test involves microscopic examination of "cast-off" cells collected from the vagina. Abnormal changes are identifiable 5 to 10 years before actual symptoms of cancer appear.

Most cancers of the uterine cervix occur in women over 40. If the disease is localized, the patient has about an 80 percent chance of living 5 years or longer; if spread to regional lymph nodes, her chances drop to 36 percent. Radiotherapy is generally the preferred treatment for cervical cancer. Usually external irradiation is given first; this may be followed by internal irradiation from radium or other radioactive materials.

Cancer Of The Uterus 33

Most cases of cancer of the uterus, the third leading cause of cancer death in women, occur in the cervix, or neck of the organ. Routine use of the "Pap" test, a simple procedure for detecting early cervical cancer, could prevent many deaths.

Cancer of the endometrium, the membrane that lines the cavity of the uterus, usually occurs after the menopause. If the cancer is localized, the patient has an 80 percent chance of surviving 5 years or longer; if regional nodes are involved the 5-year survival rate is about 46 percent. This type of cancer is usually treated by irradiation, and then surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. Patients who are poor operative risks may be treated only with radiotherapy. However, inoperable disease may become operable following irradiation. Surgery may be used alone if the cancer is confined to the uterus.

A group of scientists has suggested that synthetic progestational agents may be useful in patients with widespread endometrial cancer. Such drugs are related to the female hormone, progesterone. No deleterious side effects have been noted in patients receiving these drugs. They may be used also as adjuvant therapy to surgery and irradiation, and in combination with alkylating agents in patients resistant to progestational agents alone.