Endometrial cancer

Definition

Endometrial cancer is cancer that starts in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (womb).

Causes

Endometrial cancer is the most common type of uterine cancer. The exact cause of endometrial cancer is not known. An increased level of estrogen hormone may play a role. This stimulates the buildup of the lining of the uterus. This can lead to overgrowth of the endometrium and cancer.

Most cases of endometrial cancer occur between the ages of 60 and 70. A few cases may occur before age 40.

The following factors related to your hormones increase your risk for endometrial cancer:

Women with the following conditions also seem to be at a higher risk for endometrial cancer:

Symptoms

Symptoms of endometrial cancer include:

Exams and Tests

During the early stages of disease, a pelvic exam is often normal.

Based on your symptoms and other findings, other tests may be needed. Some can be done in your health care provider's office. Others may be done at a hospital or surgical center:

If cancer is found, imaging tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging.

Stages of endometrial cancer are:

Cancer is also described as grade 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 is the least aggressive, and grade 3 is the most aggressive. Aggressive means that the cancer grows and spreads quickly.

Treatment

Treatment options include:

Surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) may be done in women with early stage 1 cancer. The doctor may also remove the tubes and ovaries.

Surgery combined with radiation therapy is another treatment option. It is often used for women with:

Chemotherapy or hormonal therapy may be considered in some cases, most often for those with stage 3 and 4 disease.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Endometrial cancer is usually diagnosed at an early stage.

If the cancer has not spread, 95% of women are alive after 5 years. If the cancer has spread to distant organs, about 25% of women are still alive after 5 years.

Possible Complications

Complications may include any of the following:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your provider if you have any of the following:

Prevention

There is no effective screening test for endometrial (uterine) cancer.

Women with risk factors for endometrial cancer should be followed closely by their doctors. This includes women who are taking:

Frequent pelvic exams, Pap smears, vaginal ultrasounds, and endometrial biopsy may be considered in some cases.

The risk for endometrial cancer is reduced by:


Review Date: 1/14/2018
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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