Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped pelvic organ in women where fetal development occurs.
Endometrial cancer begins in the layer of cells that form the lining (endometrium) of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer. Other types of cancer can form in the uterus, including uterine sarcoma, but they are much less common than endometrial cancer.
Endometrial cancer is often detected at an early stage because it frequently produces abnormal vaginal bleeding, which prompts women to see their doctors. If endometrial cancer is discovered early, removing the uterus surgically often cures endometrial cancer.
Signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer may include:
When to see a doctor
Doctors don't know what causes endometrial cancer. What's known is that something occurs to create a genetic mutation within cells in the endometrium — the lining of the uterus.
The genetic mutation turns normal, healthy cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. Abnormal cells grow and multiply out of control, and they don't die at a set time. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can separate from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body (metastasize).
Endometrial cancer begins in the lining (endometrium) of the uterus. ...
Factors that increase the risk of endometrial cancer include:
Female reproductive system
The ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina (vaginal canal) make up the female reproductive system. ...
Endometrial cancer can spread to other parts of your body, making it more difficult to treat successfully. Endometrial cancer that spreads (metastasizes) most often travels to the lungs.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or a gynecologist if you have signs and symptoms that worry you. If you're diagnosed with endometrial cancer, you're likely to be referred to a doctor who specializes in cancers of the female reproductive system (gynecologic oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what you can expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For endometrial cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosing endometrial cancer
If endometrial cancer is found, you'll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating cancers involving the female reproductive system (gynecologic oncologist).
Staging endometrial cancer
Stages of endometrial cancer include:
In a pelvic exam, your physician inserts two gloved fingers inside your vagina. While simultaneously pressing down on your abdomen, he or she can examine your uterus, ovaries and other organs....
During a transvaginal ultrasound, your doctor or a medical technician inserts a wand-like device (transducer) into your vagina while you lie on your back on an exam table. The transducer emits sound ...
During hysteroscopy, your doctor uses a thin, lighted instrument (hysteroscope) to view the inside of your uterus. ...
Treatments and drugs
Your options for treating your endometrial cancer will depend on the characteristics of your cancer, such as the stage, your general health and your preferences.
During surgery, your surgeon will also inspect the areas around your uterus to look for signs that cancer has spread. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes for testing. This helps determine your cancer's stage.
If you aren't healthy enough to undergo surgery, you may opt for radiation therapy only. In women with advanced endometrial cancer, radiation therapy may help control cancer-related pain.
Radiation therapy can involve:
Coping and support
After you receive a diagnosis of endometrial cancer, you may have many questions, fears and concerns. Every woman finds her own way to cope with an endometrial cancer diagnosis. In time, you'll find what works for you. Until then, you might try to:
To reduce your risk of endometrial cancer, you may wish to:
Last Updated: 2013-05-14
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