Endometrial Cancer (Uterine)

What is Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer?

Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped pelvic organ in women where fetal development occurs.

Endometrial cancer begins in the layer of cells that form the lining (endometrium) of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer. Other types of cancer can form in the uterus, including uterine sarcoma, but they are much less common than endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer is often detected at an early stage because it frequently produces abnormal vaginal bleeding, which prompts women to see their doctors. If endometrial cancer is discovered early, removing the uterus surgically often cures endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer, is the most common gynaecological cancer in New Zealand with around 380 new cases per year. 

Symptoms 

Signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Bleeding between periods
  • An abnormal, watery or blood-tinged discharge from your vagina
  • Pelvic pain

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms that worry you, such as vaginal bleeding or discharge not related to your periods, pelvic pain, or pain during intercourse.

Stages and Grades 

Stage 1

Find out what stage 1 womb cancer means and about treatment options.

The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and how far it’s spread. It helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

Stage 1 cancers are early cancers and the easiest to treat. The cancer is within the womb. Stage 1 is divided into:

  • 1A means that the cancer may have grown into the muscle wall (myometrium) of the womb, but no more than halfway
  • 1B means the cancer has grown halfway or more into the muscle wall of the womb
Stage 1 womb cancer.jpg
Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • the type of womb cancer you have
  • how the cancer is likely to behave (the grade)
  • your general health
  • your preferences
Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for stage 1 womb cancer.

Your surgeon (gynaecological oncologist) removes your womb and cervix (a hysterectomy), and usually both fallopian tubes and ovaries. They may also remove lymph nodes in your pelvis to check for cancer cells.

You might have radiotherapy if you can't have surgery because of other health conditions

Stage 2

Find out what stage 2 womb cancer means and about treatment options.

This means the cancer has grown into the cervix.

Stage 2 womb cancer.jpg
Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • the type of womb cancer you have
  • how the cancer is likely to behave (the grade)
  • your general health
  • your preferences
Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for stage 2 womb cancer.

Your surgeon (gynaecological oncologist) removes your womb and cervix (hysterectomy), and usually both ovaries and fallopian tubes. Sometimes they also remove the top of your vagina and some of the surrounding tissue.

They may also remove lymph nodes in your pelvis to check for cancer cells.

If you can't have surgery for any reason, you usually have radiotherapy instead. 

Stage 3

Find out what stage 3 womb cancer means and about treatment options.

This stage means the cancer has spread outside the womb, but is still within the pelvis. Your doctor may call this locally advanced womb cancer. There are 3 categories of stage 3 womb cancer:

  • 3A means the cancer has grown into the outer covering of the womb (the serosa), or to the ovaries or fallopian tubes
  • 3B means the cancer has grown into the vagina or the tissues surrounding the womb (parametrium)
  • 3C means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (glands)
Stage 3 womb cancer.jpg
Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • the type of womb cancer you have
  • how the cancer is likely to behave (the grade)
  • your general health
  • your preferences
Surgery

You may have surgery to remove your cancer. This depends on how far your cancer has spread.

Your surgeon (gynaecological oncologist) removes your womb and cervix (hysterectomy), and both ovaries and fallopian tubes. They may also remove the top of your vagina and some of the surrounding tissue.

They may also remove lymph nodes in your pelvis. 

Stage 4

Find out what stage 4 womb cancer means and about treatment options.

Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another area of the body. There are 2 categories of stage 4 womb cancer:

  • 4A means the cancer has grown into the bowel or bladder
  • 4B means the cancer has spread to lymph nodes further away or to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain (secondary cancers or metastases)
Stage 4 womb cancer.jpg
Treatment

The stage of your cancer helps your doctor to decide which treatment you need. Treatment also depends on:

  • the type of womb cancer you have
  • how the cancer is likely to behave (the grade)
  • your general health
  • your preferences
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