What is uterine cancer?

Cancer that starts in the uterus is called uterine cancer. Most uterine cancers are endometrial cancers, which originate in the lining of the uterus. Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer, affecting more than 43,000 women annually in the United States (Source: NCI).

Common symptoms of uterine cancer are abnormal vaginal bleeding and bleeding after menopause. You may also have a vaginal discharge. The tumor may cause pelvic pain and may make it difficult or painful to urinate.

The cause of uterine cancer is not known, but high estrogen levels may play a role in its development. The risk is increased in women who menstruate longer than average, women who began puberty early, women who have never given birth, and women who start menopause late. Risk is also increased in women who have diabetes, are obese, have infertility problems, or have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Medications such as tamoxifen and estrogen, when not combined with progesterone, may also increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

When uterine cancer is suspected, a biopsy is typically done to confirm the diagnosis. Caught early, uterine cancer has an excellent prognosis and can be successfully treated with surgery. Radiation therapy is often recommended after surgery, or it may be used to treat women who, for various reasons, are not candidates for surgery. Chemotherapy may also be used in the treatment of more advanced uterine cancers.

To minimize complications and ensure that you have the best opportunity for a cure, seek prompt medical care if you develop symptoms suggestive of uterine cancer. Some complications of uterine cancer can be serious or even life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience severe symptoms such as the inability to have a bowel movement or urinate, uncontrollable or severe vaginal bleeding, or severe pelvic or abdominal pain.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?

Abnormal vaginal bleeding, bleeding after menopause, and pelvic pain are common symptoms of uterine cancer. Menopausal women may notice a clear or whitish vaginal discharge. As uterine cancers increase in size or spread to other organs, they can create a sensation of pelvic fullness or interfere with urination or bowel movements.... Read more about uterine cancersymptoms

CAUSES

What causes uterine cancer?

The cause of uterine cancer is not known, but excess estrogen seems to increase the risk. During a woman’s reproductive years, the uterine lining, or endometrium, is in a continual cycle of growth and maturation. Estrogen encourages growth of the endometrium, while progesterone encourages maturation. When pregnancy does not occur, the resulting decrease in progesterone levels causes endometrial shedding and menstruation. High estrogen levels can lead to excessive growth (hyperplasia) of the endometrium, which can develop into cancer.... Read more about uterine cancercauses

TREATMENTS

How is uterine cancer treated?

The goal of uterine cancer treatment is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in your body, although it may recur later.... Read more about uterine cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.