(Endometrial Cancer; Cancer, Uterine; Cancer, Endometrial; Endometrial Adenocarcinoma)
Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus (womb).
The lower portion of the uterus, which is closest to the vagina, is called the cervix. When cancer develops in this portion, it is called cervical cancer]]> .
The walls of the uterus (not including the cervix) are made of the endometrium (the inner lining) and the myometrium (the muscular, outer lining). The most common type of uterine cancer, called 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 (in this case uterus cells) 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 tumors, which can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.
The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown. Exposure to estrogen seems to be strongly related to the development of this cancer.
These factors increase your chance of developing endometrial cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to uterine cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Pain during urination
- Pain during intercourse
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history.
Tests may include:
- Blood and urine tests
- Pelvic exam—examination of the vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum
- Pap test]]> —scraping and testing tissue from the inside of the cervix and upper vagina
- Biopsy of the uterine lining —removing a sample of tissue from the uterine lining for testing
- ]]>Dilation and curettage (D&C)]]> —procedure to get a sample of tissue from the uterine lining
Once uterine cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatments for uterine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. Special instructions will be given to you regarding your treatment.
A hysterectomy]]> may be done to remove the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and possibly nearby lymph nodes.
This is the use of ]]>radiation]]> to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:
- External radiation therapy—radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)—radioactive materials placed into the body near the cancer cells
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 (metastasized).
This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. ]]>Chemotherapy]]> may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and via a catheter. 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 endometrial cancer.
Canadian Cancer Society
Women's Health Matters
Endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/endometrial . Accessed July 19, 2008.
Rodriguez AO. Chemotherapy for early stage endometrial cancer? Should we be using it? Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol . 2008;20:1-3.
Last reviewed March 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>
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.
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