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Endometrial / Uterine Cancer

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

Nearly all cancers of the uterus start in the endometrium and are called endometrial carcinomas. Cancers can also start in the muscle layer (myometrium) or supporting connective tissue of the uterus; these cancers are referred to as uterine sarcomas.

There are different types of endometrial carcinomas and uterine sarcomas. The treatment for endometrial carcinoma and uterine sarcoma depends on the type and stage of the cancer.

Risk Factors for Endometrial and Uterine Cancer

This type of tumor is the most common of all the gynecologic cancers and the fourth most common cancer of US women. Obesity is the most important and common risk factor. To be obese, a woman between 50 - 59 years of age is more than 50 pounds over the suggested weight for her height. In addition to obesity, other risk factors are:

  • Menopause after the age of 52
  • Diabetes
  • Unopposed estrogen replacement (including tamoxifen)

Women who have (or may have) hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, Lynch syndrome) have a very high risk of endometrial cancer. If colon or endometrial cancer has occurred in several family members, you should consider genetic counseling to learn about your family’s risk of having HNPCC. If you (or a close relative) have genetic testing and are found to have a mutation in one of the genes for HNPCC, you have a high risk of getting endometrial cancer. For more information, please visit our Cancer Genetics Clinic.

Symptoms of Endometrial and Uterine Cancer

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or other discharge
    About 90% of patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer have abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as a change in their periods or bleeding between periods or after menopause. This symptom can also occur with some non-cancerous conditions, so if you notice this, be sure to report this to your doctor as soon as possible.

    If you have gone through menopause, it is especially important to report any vaginal bleeding, spotting, or abnormal discharge to your doctor.

  • Non-bloody vaginal discharge
    If you notice a change in the frequency or amount of discharge you experience throughout the month, it is important to report this change to your doctor as it may be a sign of endometrial cancer. In about 10% of cases, the discharge associated with endometrial cancer is not bloody. Any abnormal discharge should be evaluated by your doctor.
  • Pelvic pain and/or mass and weight loss
    Pain in the pelvis, feeling a mass or lump in your pelvic area and/or losing weight without trying can also be symptoms of endometrial cancer. These symptoms are more common later if the cancer has spread beyond the uterus.

For more information on the causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma, visit the following sites:

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