What Is Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer is the most common kind of gynecologic cancer in the United States, with an estimated 52,630 women diagnosed in 2014. The most common type of uterus cancer is endometrial cancer, which is highly curable if found early.
If you are diagnosed with uterine cancer, it is important that you seek a team of doctors with expertise in gynecologic cancers. Stanford gynecologic oncologists are recognized experts in treating uterine sarcomas, and have helped develop standard guidelines for treating the disease for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).
Uterine Cancer Symptoms
The following are the most common symptoms of uterine cancer. However, you may experience symptoms differently from other women. Symptoms may include:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Difficult or painful urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain and/or mass in the pelvic area
- Bleeding after menopause
- Weight loss
Cancer of the uterus often does not occur before menopause. It usually occurs around the time menopause begins. The occasional reappearance of bleeding should not be considered simply part of menopause. It should always be checked by a doctor.
The symptoms of uterine cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. As with any suspected medical condition, it is important that you consult your doctor for assessment and diagnosis.
Uterine Cancer Types
The uterus, also called the womb, is the female organ where a fetus develops into a baby, and is also the organ that sheds its lining each month during menstruation. The uterus is made up of different tissue types that can give rise to different kinds of uterine cancer.
Cancer of the uterus spreads through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
By far, the most common kind of uterine cancer is called endometrial cancer, which will affect more than 52,630 women in 2014. About 80% of all endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas. Endometrial cancer is highly curable when found early.
In less than 2% of cases, uterine cancer develops in the connective tissue that supports the uterus. In this case, the cancer is called uterine sarcoma.
Hyperplasia is an increase in the number of normal cells lining the uterus. Although it is not cancer, it may develop into cancer in some women. The most common symptoms are heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after menopause.
Uterine Cancer Diagnosis
Diagnosis includes a medical history and physical examination, including a pelvic examination to feel the vagina, rectum and lower abdomen for masses or growths. Your doctor may also request a Pap test may as part of the pelvic examination. The diagnosis of cancer is confirmed only by a biopsy. Several tests may be used to diagnose uterine cancer, including an internal pelvic examination—to feel for any lumps or changes in the shape of the uterus—and the following:
An endometrial biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of endometrial (uterine lining) tissue is obtained using a tube which is inserted into the uterus. The tissue sample is examined under a microscope to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present. An endometrial biopsy procedure is often performed in a doctor’s office.
Dilation and Curettage (D & C)
D and C (Dilation and Curettage)
A D&C is a minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).
A transvaginal ultrasound (also called ultrasonography) is an ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, inserted in the vagina to evaluate the endometrium structure.