Cancer is the out of control growth of cells. Uterine cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the uterus. The walls of the uterus are is made of an inner and outer lining. The endometrium is the inner lining. 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 clump of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. These types of growth, called malignancy, can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
Exposure to estrogen seems to have a strong link to uterine cancer. It is not clear exactly what causes cancer cells to develop. It 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 cancer that has stayed in one area, while stage IV cancer is one that has 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. It is often used with surgery or for women who cannot tolerate surgery. Radiation therapy may be:
Hormones can affect how cancer cells work. Some types of uterine cancer may be managed with hormone medications. This option is usually reserved for advanced or recurrent cancer.
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.
Steps that may help to reduce your chances of uterine cancer include:
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.
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.
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.