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Uterine Cancer Banner

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Uterine Cancer

The uterus is the female reproductive organ. The most common form of uterine cancer is endometrial cancer, an abnormal growth of cancerous cells that occurs in the lining of the uterus. 


Risk Factors and Symptoms

In addition to a family history of uterine cancer, there are several risk factors for developing the condition including:
  • age – women who are 50+ are at greater risk
  • obesity
  • taking estrogen hormone replacement therapy without progesterone
  • past tamoxifen use for breast cancer
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • medical history of endometrial polyps
  • infertility
  • early menstruation (before age 12)
  • late menopause (after age 55)
Symptoms of uterine cancer vary between women but can include:
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • painful urination
  • pelvic pain
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Diagnostic Tests

If your doctor suspects that you may have uterine cancer you may undergo one or more tests such as:
  • pelvic exam – your gynecologist will manually examine your vagina, uterus, bladder and rectum for any distorted shape or size
  • pap smear
  • blood lab work - while there is no specific blood test to check for endometrial or uterine cancer, a blood test showing high levels of CA-125 can indicate the presence of cancer
  • biopsy of uterine tissue - your gynecologist will insert a small instrument into your uterus through the vaginal canal and remove a small tissue sample from your uterine lining. The procedure can typically be done in your gynecologist’s office however if not enough tissue can be collected using that method you may need to be scheduled for an outpatient D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure. For a D&C procedure you will register and then change into a hospital dressing gown. You will be put under general anesthesia so you will not be awake for the procedure. Your surgeon will scrape tissue from the lining of your uterus and then send the tissue sample for exam by a pathology lab.
  • transvaginal ultrasound
  • MRI - to help determine if a tumor is cancerous or perhaps a fibroid
  • CT scan -to determine if cancer has spread beyond the uterus (note to Sandy: create hyperlink to “CT scan” definition in the Endometriosis section)
  • cystoscopy – to see if cancer has spread to your urethra or bladder

Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed with uterine cancer your gynecologic oncologist will review your personal medical history, the size and location of your tumor, and whether the cancer has spread outside the uterus. Your oncologist will then recommend one or more treatment options
  • hysterectomy
  • hormone therapy – women who want to get pregnant in the future and whose cancerous tumor has hormone receptors may opt for this therapeutic approach where you ingest progesterone tablets and the hormone attaches to the tumor to kill it.
  • radiation therapy – uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in a targeted area.
  • chemotherapy – intravenously-delivered drug to kill your uterine cancer cells.

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