Uterine Cancer

What is uterine cancer?

Uterine cancer, sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus. Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer. Uterine cancer begins when the DNA in normal uterine cells mutates, causing the cells change and grow uncontrollably.

What are the different types of uterine cancer?

There are two major types of uterine cancer. The most common type, which accounts for 95 percent of all uterine cancers, is adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer develops from cells in the lining of the uterus, the endometrium.

The second most common type of uterine cancer is sarcoma. This form of uterine cancer develops in the uterine muscle, also known as the myometrium, or in the supporting tissues of the uterine glands.

What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?

The symptoms of uterine cancer may vary, but the most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding, or bleeding that is not associated with the menstrual cycle. Other symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge or spotting
  • Pain or difficulty urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Unexplained pain in the pelvic area

If symptoms indicate a possibility of uterine cancer, a doctor will recommend a series of diagnostic tests, which may include a pelvic exam, ultrasound and/or a uterine biopsy.

What are the causes and risk factors of uterine cancer?

It's difficult to determine the exact cause of uterine cancer, but certain risk factors do make some women more susceptible. These risk factors may include:

  • Family history of uterine cancer
  • Imbalance of female reproductive hormones
  • Uterine hyperplasia, or an overgrowth of the uterine lining
  • Menstrual cycles beginning before age 12
  • No history of pregnancy
  • Menopause beginning after age 55
  • Obesity

How is uterine cancer treated?

Treatment for uterine cancer varies depending on the type and advancement of the cancer, as well as each patient's overall health and medical history.

Surgery is the most common type of treatment. Surgery typically includes a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus and surrounding tissues.

Radiation therapy may also be used with or without surgery. Both external radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, may be used to treat uterine cancer.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are also treatment options, which may be used in addition to, or in place of, surgery and radiation therapy.