Uterine Cancer: General Information

Uterine Cancer

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What is Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer?

Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic malignancy in the United States, with around 45,000 new cases diagnosed per year. Uterine cancer can be categorized into two major groups: cancers of the uterine lining (or endometrium), called carcinomas, and cancers of the uterine muscle called sarcomas. Sarcomas are rare tumors. They are much less common than cancers that arise in the uterine lining. The information below is for women with the more common endometrial type of cancer.

Endometrial cancer starts in the lining of the uterus. The uterus plays an important role in a woman’s reproductive health, especially during the years when she can become pregnant. It is where a fertilized egg can implant and develop into a baby if she does become pregnant. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, or period, the uterus sheds its lining in the form of bleeding.

What exactly triggers an endometrial cancer is not known, but age, obesity, hormonal disorders, and genetic predisposition are all risk factors. There is no way to screen for endometrial cancer or to completely prevent it. However, many women have symptoms early in the disease process. The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is vaginal bleeding after menopause. Some younger women will have a change in their normal periods. As a result, uterine cancer is detected and treated early in many cases.