Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that grows in the lining of the womb. It can often be cured, especially if it's discovered early.
What is endometrial cancer?
Endometrial cancer develops when cells grow and multiply abnormally in the endometrium, the lining of the womb. It's the most common gynaecological cancer in women and is diagnosed in about 3,000 women in Australia each year.
You are more at risk of developing endometrial cancer if:
- you are obese, especially if you also have diabetes and high blood pressure
- you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- you have been treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer
- you have been treated with oestrogen, without being given progestin
- someone in your family has had endometrial, ovarian or colon (bowel) cancer
- you have never been pregnant
Endometrial cancer is more common in older women who have gone through menopause, but younger women can get it too.
Symptoms of endometrial cancer
The symptoms of endometrial cancer include:
- vaginal bleeding that isn't your period
- an unusual discharge from the vagina
- finding it difficult or painful to urinate (wee)
- painful sex
- pain in your pelvis
All of these symptoms are common and don't mean you have endometrial cancer. But tell your doctor if you're worried, or if you have symptoms that won't go away. It's especially important to let your doctor know if you notice unusual vaginal bleeding when you're being treated with tamoxifen, or if it happens after you have been through menopause.
Diagnosis of endometrial cancer
If your doctor thinks you might have endometrial cancer, they will order some tests. These may include a physical examination to check for swelling inside your womb, an ultrasound to look at the lining of your womb, and blood and urine tests.
If the doctor finds anything unusual, they may order a procedure called a hysteroscopy and biopsy. This looks inside your womb with a special instrument and removes a small sample of tissue for testing in the lab. Sometimes they may order a dilation and curettage (D&C) to get a tissue sample.
Treatment of endometrial cancer
Most women with endometrial cancer will need surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes or ovaries, and sometimes lymph nodes to make sure the cancer doesn't spread any further.
Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant, as these treatments could harm your baby. If you haven't been through menopause and haven't had children, talk to your doctor about what can be done so you can have children in future.
Prevention of endometrial cancer
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly will reduce your risk of getting endometrial cancer. Pregnancy and breastfeeding also both reduce your risk. If you are taking the oral contraceptive pill, consider taking a pill that combines oestrogen and progestin.
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Last reviewed: May 2019