What is Endometrial Cancer?

Endometrial cancer, also referred to as uterine cancer, is a rare type of cancer that develops in the cells lining the uterus. It is one of the most common types of gynecological cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Endometrial cancer is named for the uterus, which is a part of the female reproductive system. The uterus is located in the pelvis, which is the lower abdomen. Endometrial cancer begins in the cells lining the uterus, which is called the endometrium.

Uterus

The uterus is a muscular organ that helps to store and release eggs during ovulation. It also produces the hormone estrogen, which acts as a sex hormone. Estrogen is present in both women and men.

The uterus is also responsible for producing the lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. The endometrium is responsible for the shedding of the inner lining of the uterus during monthly periods.

Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

Symptoms of endometrial cancer may not appear until later stages of the disease. A person may experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Discomfort while urinating, including pain during urination
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling full after eating a small meal
  • Pain in the pelvis, especially after sex
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Urinary urgency
  • Urinary frequency
  • Vaginal bleeding

Diagnosing Endometrial Cancer

If a doctor suspects that a person has endometrial cancer, they will likely use a combination of medical history and physical examination to determine if the condition is present.

A doctor will also use a pelvic exam and other tests to determine the stage of the cancer. Staging is used to determine the type of treatment a person will receive.

Tests to Diagnose Endometrial Cancer

A doctor will order a number of tests to diagnose endometrial cancer. These tests, which are often performed in a doctor’s office, can include:

  • Blood tests to determine if the cancer has spread to the blood
  • Ultrasound to create cross-sectional images of the abdomen, pelvis, and uterus
  • Hysteroscopy, which involves the insertion of a scope into the vagina to examine the uterus
  • Biopsy, which involves taking a small tissue sample for examination under a microscope
  • CT scan, which creates images of the inside of the body from different angles

The doctor may also recommend a hysteroscopy to check for polyps or fibroids. These are noncancerous growths that can cause abnormal bleeding.

Doctors can use a combination of these tests to determine the stage of the cancer and help determine the best course of treatment.

Treatment for Endometrial Cancer

The type of treatment that a person receives depends on their overall health and the stage of the cancer.

The most common treatment for endometrial cancer is surgery. The surgeon will remove the uterus and surrounding tissue. The surgeon may also remove lymph nodes that have been affected by the cancer.

A doctor may recommend additional treatment if the cancer has spread.

Some doctors may recommend radiation therapy to destroy any tumor cells that may have been missed during the surgery.

Chemotherapy may also be an option to treat endometrial cancer.

A doctor will recommend the best treatment for each person based on factors such as:

  • The type of cancer
  • The size of the tumor
  • The person’s overall health
  • The person’s age

Supportive care, which includes additional treatments, such as hormone therapy, pain medication, and other medications, may also be recommended.

Recognizing the Signs of Endometrial Cancer

Anyone who notices any unusual changes in the appearance or function of their pelvic organs should contact a doctor. These changes may be caused by endometrial cancer.

Anyone who experiences any of the following symptoms should also contact a doctor:

  • Abdominal and pelvic pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fatigue after eating
  • Vaginal discharge

When to Contact a Doctor?

Anyone experiencing any unusual changes in the appearance or function of their pelvic organs should contact a doctor. These changes may be caused by endometrial cancer.

Pelvic pain that lasts more than 2 weeks is also a reason to contact a doctor.

Contacting a Doctor

Anyone who is experiencing any unusual changes in the appearance or function of their pelvic organs should contact a doctor. These changes may be the result of endometrial cancer.

A person can contact a doctor using the American Cancer Society’s online tool to find a doctor in their area.

A person can also contact their doctor using the National Cancer Institute’s Oncology Contact Form.

A person can also contact their doctor directly using the Cancer Information Service.

Outlook and Prognosis for Endometrial Cancer

The outlook for endometrial cancer depends on the type of treatment a person receives.

For some people, the outlook is good. For others, the outlook is not as good.

According to the NCI, the 5year relative survival rate for all people with endometrial cancer is about 88%. This means that about 88% of people with endometrial cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

If a person receives treatment early during the course of the cancer, they have a good outlook. According to the NCI, about 88% of people with endometrial cancer receive treatment within the first 3 months of diagnosis.

The NCI also reports that there are 2 types of treatment for endometrial cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy

The NCI states that about 10% of people with endometrial cancer receive surgery.

The NCI also reports that approximately 1% of people with endometrial cancer receive radiation therapy.

The NCI reports that the 5year relative survival rate for people who receive surgery and radiation therapy is about 97% for people who receive surgery and about 72% for people who receive radiation therapy.

The takeaway

Endometrial cancer is a rare type of cancer. While it is relatively common, it is a serious condition that can be life threatening.

A person can receive treatment for endometrial cancer. Doctors will typically recommend surgery to remove the uterus and surrounding tissue

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