What is endometrial cancer?
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow, muscular organ in a woman's pelvis. The uterus is where a fetus grows. In most nonpregnant women, the uterus is about 3 inches long.
Endometrial cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the endometrium. Cancer of the endometrium is different from cancer of the muscle of the uterus, which is called sarcoma of the uterus.
What are the risk factors for endometrial cancer?
Taking tamoxifen for breast cancer or taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) can affect the risk of developing endometrial cancer. A patient taking this drug should have a pelvic exam every year and report any vaginal bleeding (other than menstrual bleeding) as soon as possible. Women taking estrogen (a hormone that can affect the growth of some cancers) alone have an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. Taking estrogen in combination with progesterone (another hormone) does not increase a woman's risk of this cancer.
How do I know if I have endometrial cancer?
Possible symptoms and signs of endometrial cancer include unusual vaginal discharge pain in the pelvis or bleeding from the uterus after menopause. A woman should see her doctor if any of the following problems occur:
What tests can be done to see If I have developed uterine cancer?
- Bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation (periods).
- Difficult or painful urination.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Pain in the pelvic area.
Because endometrial cancer begins inside the uterus, it does not usually show up in the results of a Pap test. For this reason, a sample of endometrial tissue must be removed and examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells. One of the following procedures may be used:
Endometrial biopsy: The removal of tissue from the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) by inserting a thin, flexible tube through the cervix and into the uterus. The tube is used to gently scrape a small amount of tissue from the endometrium and then remove the tissue samples. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
Dilatation and curettage: A surgical procedure to remove samples of tissue or the inner lining of the uterus. The cervix is dilated and a curette (spoon-shaped instrument) is inserted into the uterus to remove tissue. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy. This procedure is also called a D&C.
What are the factors that influence the outcome from endometrial cancer?
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options. The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Where do I get information on the latest developements in the field of endometrial cancer?
- The stage of the cancer (whether it is in the endometrium only, involves the whole uterus, or has spread to other places in the body).
- How the cancer cells look under a microscope.
- Whether the cancer cells are affected by progesterone.
We have a daily updated endometrial cancer news page. Visit this page frequently to learn about the latest developments in endometrial cancer.
Note that endometrial cancer is highly curable in the early stages.