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Uterine Cancer

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 ...

condition

Definition

Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus, also known as the womb.

The lower portion of the uterus that is closest to the vagina is called the cervix. When cancer develops in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer.

The walls of the uterus that do not include the cervix are made of two types of lining. The endometrium is the inner lining and the myometrium is 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.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine Cancer
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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.

Causes

The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown. Exposure to estrogen seems to be strongly related to the development of this cancer.

Risk

Factors that increase your chance of developing endometrial cancer include:

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to uterine cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.

  • Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during intercourse
diagnosis

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A pelvic exam of the vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Pap test
  • Biopsy of the uterine lining
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C)
treatment

Treatment

After 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 about your treatment.

Treatments include:

Surgery

A hysterectomy may be done to remove the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and possibly nearby lymph nodes.

Radiation Therapy

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, called brachytherapy—radioactive materials placed into the body near the cancer cells
Hormone Therapy

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.

Chemotherapy

This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and through 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.

prevention

Prevention

All women should have yearly pelvic exams to monitor any changes that may signal cancer. Using oral birth control may protect against uterine cancer.

Care for Your Child

If your child has to see a cancer specialist, it's important that they visit a doctor who understands the needs of kids. 

At UVA, our doctors are experts in the special kind of care children need. 

Learn more.

You Should Know

In-Depth Cancer News

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