Uterine cancer is cancer that starts in a woman’s uterus. You can read more about cancer of the uterus in the uterine cancer overview. If your doctor suspects that you have uterine cancer, he may order one or more tests to aid the diagnosis:
• Pelvic exam – The doctor looks into the vagina and feels for any changes or lumps on the vagina, uterus, bladder, or rectum. The opening to the uterus is very small, so this test is not an effective test for diagnosing uterine cancer, but is used to screen for other conditions.
• Pap test – The doctor collects cells from the cervix (lower end of the uterus) and vagina. The sample is tested for abnormal cells. This test is of limited use in diagnosing uterine cancer, but is often used to screen for other problems.
• Transvaginal ultrasound – An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create a visual image of the inside of the body on a video monitor. In this procedure, the doctor inserts an instrument into the vagina to send the sound waves into the uterus to create a picture that can be checked to see if the walls of the uterus are thicker than they should be.
• Biopsy – The doctor removes a small sample of tissue from the lining of the uterus which is sent to the lab for testing. This may be done in the doctor’s office, or may be treated as same-day surgery. A biopsy can cause some cramping and vaginal bleeding.
If abnormal uterine cells are found, the doctor will need to determine the stage of the cancer in order to develop a treatment plan. These are the basic stages of uterine cancer:
• Stage 1 – The cancer is confined to the body of the uterus and has not spread into the cervix.
• Stage 2 – Cancer has spread from the uterus into the cervix.
• Stage 3 – Cancer has spread outside the uterus into the pelvis. Lymph nodes in the pelvis may contain uterine cancer cells.