10 Key Facts to Know About Uterine Cancer

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Uterine cancer is one of the five most common types of gynecological cancers; the others are cervical, ovarian, vaginal, and vulvar. Around 50,600 women are diagnosed with uterine cancer each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and although anyone with a uterus carries some risk, that risk increases with age. Read on to learn key facts about uterine cancer, including information about risk factors, statistics, and treatment options.

Woman holding her hands over her uterus.

The 2 main types of uterine cancer

There are two main types of uterine cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer begins in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, and is the most common type. The rarer type, uterine sarcoma, forms in the muscles and supporting tissue of the uterus. It is typically more aggressive than endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer cells.

Types of endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer is further divided into different types depending on what the cancer cells look like, according to the American Cancer Society. These include adenocarcinoma, carcinosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and transitional carcinoma. The most common type is adenocarcinoma.

Gynecologist explaining types of uterine sarcoma to a patient.

Types of uterine sarcoma

There are a number of types of uterine sarcoma, which include uterine leiomyosarcoma (the most common), endometrial stromal sarcoma, and undifferentiated sarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society.

Middle age overweight woman who is at risk for uterine cancer.

Risk factors for uterine cancer

Risk factors for developing uterine cancer, according to the CDC, include:

  • Being over age 50
  • Obesity
  • Taking estrogen therapy without progesterone
  • Having difficulty getting pregnant
  • Having less than five periods a year
  • Taking Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat some types of breast cancer
  • A family history of uterine, colon, or ovarian cancer
Contraceptive pills used to lower the risk of uterine cancer.

Lowering your risk of uterine cancer

You cannot prevent uterine cancer, but there are ways to decrease your risk, according to the CDC:

  • Use birth control pills
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Add progesterone if taking estrogen for hormone replacement therapy
Woman with pelvic pain worried about uterine cancer.

Symptoms of endometrial cancer

Symptoms of endometrial cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, include:

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge when you don’t have your period
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Difficult or painful urination
Woman being diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Diagnosing endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer is diagnosed by examining tissue from the lining of your uterus, according to the National Cancer Institute. Either a biopsy or a dilation and curettage procedure may be used to obtain this tissue. Other diagnostic tests include hysteroscopy, which is an examination of your uterus using a hysteroscope, and transvaginal ultrasound, which uses a wand inserted into the vagina to allow a doctor to examine the uterus.

Surgeons performing a hysterectomy.

Treatment for uterine cancer

There are five types of treatment typically used for endometrial cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. These include a surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or lymph nodes; radiation; chemotherapy; hormone therapy; and targeted therapy. Treatments for uterine sarcoma treatment are largely the same, except there is not yet a targeted therapy for this type of uterine cancer.

Cancer cells spreading.

When uterine cancer metastasizes

In some cases, uterine cancer can spread to other parts of the body. For example, endometrial cancer may spread to the vagina or lungs, according to the American Cancer Society. Uterine sarcoma may spread to the lungs or bones.

Senior woman discussing uterine cancer prognosis with her doctor.

The prognosis for uterine cancer

The good news is that when diagnosed early, uterine cancer has a five-year survival rate of 81.1 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. Uterine cancer deaths represent less than 2 percent of all cancer deaths. However, survival rates are dependent on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Remember: Early diagnosis usually leads to a better outcome. Staying on top of your reproductive health can help you reduce your risk and get treatment early.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.