10 Key Facts to Know About Uterine Cancer

Health Writer
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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.