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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 inner layer is called the endometrium. This is the layer shed during a normal period. The myometrium is a layer of muscle in the middle. The outer layer is called the serosa.

What are the types of uterine cancer?

  • Endometrial carcinoma: This is the more common type of uterine cancer and begins in the endometrium.

  • Uterine sarcomas: Other types of uterine cancer start in the muscle or connective tissue of the uterus. These cancers are called sarcomas.

What increases my risk of uterine cancer?

  • 60 years of age 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, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or breast cancer

  • Previous radiation treatment to your pelvic area

What are the signs and symptoms of uterine cancer?

You may not have any signs of uterine cancer, or you may have any of the following:

  • 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?

You may need a pelvic exam if you have signs or symptoms of cancer in your uterus. These tests help your caregiver to know more about what may be causing your symptoms. You also may need any of the following tests:

  • Endometrial biopsy: Caregivers collect a sample of cells from the inside of your uterus. The cells are sent to the lab to be tested for cancer.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your abdomen and pelvis. The pictures may show the location and size of the tumor, and if the cancer has spread. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your abdomen and pelvis. It may show the size and location of the cancer, and if it has spread. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Surgery: Uterine cancer may be diagnosed when surgery is done for another reason, such as heavy periods.

How is uterine cancer treated?

Treatment may decrease your symptoms or stop the cancer's spread. Ask your caregiver for more information about the treatment that you need. Your treatment may change if your cervical cancer grows or spreads:

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

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

  • Radiation therapy: This uses high-energy beams of x-rays to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy: These medicines are used to kill cancer cells.

What are the risks of uterine cancer?

  • Surgery may cause bleeding, infection, or damage to the organs near the uterus, such as the bowel. After a hysterectomy, you will not be able to get pregnant. Even with treatment, uterine cancer may continue to grow, or come back. Uterine cancer may be life-threatening.

  • Uterine cancer can spread outside of the uterus to other body areas, such as the lungs. When cancer spreads, it is called metastasis. Cancer that has spread may prevent organs from working as they should. Cancer may increase your risk for a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

How can I care for myself during treatment?

  • Eat extra protein and calories: Foods may taste different during cancer treatment. You may not feel like eating, and you may lose weight. Ask for more information about the best eating plan for you. Do the following to help your body get the protein and calories it needs:

    • Eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours.

    • If you have stomach discomfort during the night, eat your last meal 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed. Raise the head of your bed, or sleep with your head up on pillows.

    • Eat when you feel hungry. Vary your foods, and eat what you want to eat.

    • Ask about adding nutritional bars and drinks to your eating plan.

    • Drink most of your liquids between rather than with meals. Liquids can make you feel full faster and prevent you from eating enough calories.

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

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address: http://www.cancer.gov

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have unusual vaginal bleeding, or you have blood in your urine.

  • Your bowel movements are bloody or black.

  • 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.

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.

© 2014 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.

Learn more about Uterine Cancer