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HealthInfo Canterbury

Uterine & endometrial cancer

Cancer of the uterus is the most common gynaecological cancer affecting women. Most cancers of the uterus are cancers of the lining of the uterus. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium, so this cancer is also called endometrial cancer. Cancers can also develop in the muscle layers of the uterus.

This type of cancer happens most commonly in women older than 50.

Most bleeding after menopause (postmenopausal bleeding) isn't caused by endometrial cancer, but it is important to see your GP and find out what is causing it. Other causes include cervical polyps and thinning of your vaginal walls caused by hormone changes after menopause. This is called atrophic vaginitis.

What tests will I need?

Your doctor will do an internal (vaginal) examination, to look at your cervix and feel your uterus. They may also take swabs from your vagina to look for any infections.

You may need to have an ultrasound scan to look at your womb, and to check how thick the lining is. If the lining is thicker than it should be, then you will need to have a sample of the tissue (a biopsy) taken. This will be done either as a pipelle biopsy or with a hysteroscopy.

If the tests show you have endometrial cancer, it will usually be treated by removing your womb (a hysterectomy). If the cancer is just in the lining of your womb and has not spread any further, then surgery has a very good chance of curing it. If it has spread, you may need other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Canterbury DHB. Updated November 2016.

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See also:

Cancer treatments & their side effects

Page reference: 58481

Review key: HIUEC-58481