Uterine cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the uterus. The walls of the uterus are made of an inner and outer lining. The endometrium is the inner lining. This is where the most common type of uterine cancer begins.
This fact sheet will focus on endometrial cancer.
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Cancer is the out of control growth of cells. The cells form a clump of tissue called a growth or tumor. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues. Cancer can then spread to other parts of the body.
The exact cause of uterine cancer is not known. It may be linked to estrogen exposure. Estrogen is a female hormone. Genes and environment may also play a role in this type of cancer.
Uterine cancer is more common in women over 40 years old. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Long term use of estrogens or tamoxifen—in high doses
- Early start of menstrual periods
- Late menopause
- History of abnormal cells or polyps in the uterus
- Health conditions such as:
- Infertility, or never having a pregnancy
- A family history of:
- Uterine cancer
- Cowden syndrome or Lynch syndrome
Symptoms of uterine cancer may be:
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women
- Belly bloating or fullness
- Pain in the pelvic area
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A pelvic exam will be done.
Tests may include:
- Ultrasound of the pelvis
- Biopsy —a small tissue sample is taken from the uterus
- Blood tests
- Dilation and curettage (D&C)—a procedure to remove samples of uterine tissue
- Hysteroscopy —a lighted scope to check the uterus
- Pap test —to see if cancer has spread beyond the uterus
Like other cancers, uterine cancer is staged from I to IV (1 to 4). Stage I is a cancer that has stayed in one area. Stage IV is a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Treatments for uterine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. Options may be:
To help reduce the risk of uterine cancer:
- Talk to the doctor about any menstrual changes or abnormal bleeding.
- Reach and keep a healthy weight.
- Talk to the doctor about the risks and benefits of taking hormones.
- Breastfeed for at least 6 months.
American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute https://www.cancer.gov
Canadian Cancer Society https://www.cancer.ca
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Endometrial cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer.html. Accessed March 8, 2021.
Endometrial cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/endometrial-cancer. Accessed Macrh 8, 2021.
Endometrial cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/gynecologic-tumors/endometrial-cancer. Accessed March 8, 2021.
General information about endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/patient/endometrial-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 8, 2021.
1/11/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115517/Breastfeeding : Jordan SJ, Na R, Johnatty SE, et al. Breastfeeding and endometrial cancer risk: an analysis from the epidemiology of cancer consortium. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;129(6):10599-1067.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 01/2021
- Update Date: 03/08/2021