What Is Uterine Cancer?
Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus (or womb), the pear-shaped organ that carries a developing baby during pregnancy.
The most common type of uterine cancer is endometrial cancer. It grows in the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium.
Other types of uterine cancer begin in the supporting connective tissue and muscle cells of the uterus.
In the United States, uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. It's also the most common cancer of women's gynecologic cancers.
Every year, about 52,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with uterine cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute — and about 8,500 of these women die of the disease annually.
Like most cancers, the earlier uterine cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.
Uterine Cancer Risk Factors
While experts still don't know the exact cause of uterine cancer, they do know that certain women are at higher risk.
Risk factors include:
Uterine Cancer Types
Endometrial cancers, which start in the cells that line the uterus, belong to a group of cancers called carcinomas.
The majority of endometrial carcinomas are cancers of the cells that form glands in the endometrium. These are called adenocarcinomas.
The most common types of endometrial cancers are endometrioid adenocarcinomas.
Less common are squamous cell, undifferentiated, clear cell, serous carcinoma, and poorly differentiated carcinoma.
When cancer starts in the connective tissue and muscular cells of the uterus, the cancers are uterine sarcomas.
They are much less common than the endometrial cancers and include stromal sarcoma and leiomyosarcomas.
Uterine Cancer Stages
If cancer is found, the next step is to estimate how advanced it is.
To do this, your doctor may order a CT scan and/or PET scan, as well as blood tests.
In some cases, your doctor will not be able to tell the stage of your cancer — meaning how advanced it is — until after surgery.
Stages of uterine/endometrial cancer include:
- Stage I (uterus only)
- Stage II (spread to cervix)
- Stage III
- Stage IV
Stage III refers to cancer that has spread further than the uterus but not to the rectum or bladder; the lymph nodes in the pelvic area may be involved.
Stage IV refers to cancer that has progressed beyond the pelvic area, perhaps to the bladder and/or rectum.
Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: Tampon test for endometrial cancer
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