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Uterine Cancer

What is uterine cancer?

Uterine cancer is a tumor that develops in any of the 3 layers of your uterus. The endometrium is the inner layer and is the layer shed during a normal period. Endometrial carcinoma is the more common type of uterine cancer. Uterine sarcomas are cancers that start in the muscle or connective tissue of the uterus.

What increases my risk for uterine cancer?

  • Age 60 years or older

  • Endometrial hyperplasia, a condition that causes the uterine lining to grow thicker than normal

  • Estrogen therapy or hormone therapy used to treat breast cancer

  • A family history of breast, endometrial, or colorectal cancer

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, PCOS, or breast cancer

  • Previous radiation treatment to your pelvic area

  • Cigarette smoking

What are the signs and symptoms of uterine cancer?

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, such as heavier periods, bleeding between periods, or bleeding after menopause

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

  • A lump in your pelvic area

  • Weight loss without trying

  • Fatigue or feeling more tired than usual

  • Fever

How is uterine cancer diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will do a pelvic exam to check for problems with your cervix, uterus, and ovaries. You may also need any of the following:

  • Endometrial biopsy is used to collect a sample of cells from the inside of your uterus to be tested for cancer.

  • Dilation and curettage is a procedure to remove tissue from your uterus to be checked for cancer.

  • A CT or MRI may show the location and size of the tumor, and if the cancer has spread. You may be given contrast liquid to help the tumor show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Surgery for another reason, such as heavy periods, may find cancer.

How is uterine cancer treated?

  • Hysterectomy is surgery to remove your uterus. Your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

  • Hormone medicine may be used if the cancer is sensitive to hormones.

  • Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells with high-energy x-ray beams.

  • Chemotherapy medicines are used to kill cancer cells.

  • Ablation is a procedure to destroy the endometrium. You may need ablation if you have heavy or abnormal vaginal bleeding.

What can I do to manage my uterine cancer?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Smoking can also delay healing after treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. If you have nausea or diarrhea from cancer treatment, extra liquids may help decrease your risk of dehydration.

  • Eat healthy foods. Foods may taste different during cancer treatment. You may not feel like eating, and you may lose weight. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours. Ask a dietitian for more information about the best eating plan for you.

  • Exercise as directed. Ask your healthcare provider or oncologist about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise prevents muscle loss and can help you feel more like eating.

  • Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.

  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have vaginal bleeding when it is not time for your period.

  • You see blood in your urine.

  • Your bowel movements are bloody or black.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have pain or discomfort in your back, pelvis, hips, or abdomen.

  • You do not want to eat, or you have lost weight without trying.

  • Your abdomen or legs are swollen.

  • You feel a lump in your pelvic area.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.