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Uterine Cancer

En Español (Spanish Version) More InDepth Information on This Condition

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus, also known as the womb.

The lower portion of the uterus that is closest to the vagina is called the cervix. When cancer develops in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer.

The walls of the uterus that do not include the cervix are made of two types of lining. The endometrium is the inner lining and the myometrium is the muscular, outer lining. The most common type of uterine cancer, called adenocarcinoma, begins in the endometrium. Less common cancers, called sarcomas, begin in the myometrium. This fact sheet will focus on endometrial cancer.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine Cancer

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case uterus cells, divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

Causes

The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown. Exposure to estrogen seems to be strongly related to the development of this cancer.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing endometrial cancer include:

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to uterine cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.

  • Abnormal bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during intercourse

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A pelvic exam of the vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

Treatment

After uterine cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatments for uterine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. Special instructions will be given to you about your treatment.

Treatments include:

Surgery

A hysterectomy may be done to remove the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and possibly nearby lymph nodes.

Radiation Therapy

This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:

  • External radiation therapy—radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body
  • Internal radiation therapy, called brachytherapy—radioactive materials placed into the body near the cancer cells

Hormone Therapy

Drugs may be used to control cancer cells outside the uterus. This treatment is for women unable to have surgery, or who have recurrent cancer, or cancer that has spread.

Chemotherapy

This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and through a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. Chemotherapy may have limited benefit for treating endometrial cancer.

Prevention

All women should have yearly pelvic exams to monitor any changes that may signal cancer. Using oral birth control may protect against uterine cancer.

 

RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References:

  • Endometrial adenocarcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2013.
  • Endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/endometrial . Accessed March 14, 2013.
  • Rodriguez AO. Chemotherapy for early stage endometrial cancer? Should we be using it? Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol . 2008;20:1-3.
  • 8/31/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Thomas CC, Wingo PA, Dolan MS, Lee NC, Richardson LC. Endometrial cancer risk among younger, overweight women. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114:22-27.
  • 1/29/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Dey S, Hablas A, Seifeldin IA, et al. Urban-rural differences of gynaecological malignancies in Egypt (1999-2002). BJOG. 2010;117(3):348-355.

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