• Endometrial Cancer

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    About Endometrial Cancer

    What is endometrial cancer?

    Endometrial cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the endometrium. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus, a hollow, muscular organ in a woman's pelvis. The uterus is where a fetus grows; it consists of three layers:

    • The endometrium, which is shed during a menstrual cycle
    • The myometrium which is the muscle layer
    • The serosa, which is the outside layer or covering of the uterus

    In most non-pregnant women, the uterus is about 3 inches long. The lower, narrow end of the uterus is the cervix, which leads to the vagina. Cancer of the endometrium is a different type of cancer than the muscle layer of the uterus, which is called a sarcoma or "leiomyosarcoma" of the uterus. Most endometrial cancers begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids.

    anatomy of the female reproductive systemAnatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium. 

    Risk factors

    Risk factors for endometrial cancer can include:

    • Taking estrogen alone (without progesterone)
    • Overweight/obesity
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Taking tamoxifen for breast cancer
    • Family history of certain cancers or Lynch syndrome, a rare inherited condition that increases the risk of developing certain cancers

    Signs and symptoms

    The signs and symptoms for endometrial cancer can include:

    • Bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation (periods)
    • Difficult or painful urination
    • Pelvic pain
    • Pain during sexual intercourse

    Diagnostics

    • Endometrial biopsy
    • Dilatation and curettage (D&C)
    • Transvaginal ultrasound

    Learn details about how we diagnose endometrial cancer.

    Treatments

    Treatment options include:

    • Surgery
    • Radiation therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Hormone therapy

    Learn details about how we treat endometrial cancer.

    Factors affecting recovery

    Your prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

    • The stage of your cancer. This is determined by how much the cancer has involved the uterus, how much the cancer has spread specifically into the muscle layer and whether the cancer has spread locally to other organs near the uterus, such as the cervix or more distantly to other places in the body.
    • How the cancer cells look under a microscope, which is referred to as the "grade" of the cancer
    • Whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors for progesterone
     

    Next: How We Diagnose Endometrial Cancer 

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