Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus. The walls of the uterus are made of 2 types of lining. The endometrium is the inner lining and the myometrium is the muscular, outer lining. The most common type of uterine cancer (adenocarcinoma) begins in the endometrium. Less common cancers called sarcomas, begin in the myometrium.
This fact sheet will focus on endometrial cancer.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
Exposure to estrogen seems to be strongly related to the development of uterine cancer. It is not clear exactly what causes changes in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Uterine cancer is more common in women aged 50-60 years old. Other factors that may increase your chances of uterine cancer:
Uterine cancer may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A pelvic exam of the vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, uterine cancer is staged from I-IV (1-4). Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Treatments for uterine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. Options may include:
A hysterectomy may be done to remove the uterus. Other nearby structures, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lymph nodes may also need to be removed.
This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy may be:
Drugs may be used to control cancer cells outside the uterus. This treatment is for women unable to have surgery, or who have recurrent cancer, or cancer that has spread.
This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given as an injection, through a catheter, or by mouth. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. Chemotherapy may have limited benefit for treating uterine cancer.
To help reduce your chances of uterine cancer:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
Endometrial cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer.html. Accessed January 8, 2018.
Endometrial cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113952/Endometrial-cancer. Updated May 24, 2017. Accessed January 8, 2018.
Endometrial cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/gynecologic-tumors/endometrial-cancer. Updated March 2017. Accessed January 8, 2018.
General information about endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/patient/endometrial-treatment-pdq. Updated October 13, 2017. Accessed January 8, 2018.
8/31/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113952/Endometrial-cancer: Thomas CC, Wingo PA, Dolan MS, Lee NC, Richardson LC. Endometrial cancer risk among younger, overweight women. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114(1):22-27.
1/29/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113952/Endometrial-cancer: Dey S, Hablas A, Seifeldin IA, et al. Urban-rural differences of gynaecological malignancies in Egypt (1999-2002). BJOG. 2010;117(3):348-355.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.