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HealthInfo Canterbury

Cancer of the uterus

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The uterus, also called the womb, is a muscular bag in your body where an unborn baby can grow and develop. Cancer of the uterus is the most common cancer that affects the female reproductive system. It's also called uterine cancer or endometrial cancer. Read more about different types of cancer of the uterus.

Cancer of the uterus is usually diagnosed early and treated successfully.

Risk factors for cancer of the uterus

We don't know exactly why some people get cancer of the uterus, but there are some risk factors that increase your chances of getting it. They include:

Symptoms of cancer of the uterus

The most common sign of cancer of the uterus is vaginal bleeding that's unusual or irregular for you. See your GP if:

See your GP if you have any symptoms that worry you. It's important that any changes are investigated early.

Diagnosing cancer of the uterus

Your doctor will do a pelvic examination. To do this, they will insert two lubricated gloved fingers into your vagina, then press gently on the outside of your lower tummy with their other hand. This lets them feel your uterus, ovaries and other pelvic organs. They may also look at your cervix using an instrument called a speculum, which they put in your vagina.

Your doctor might suggest having a cervical smear if it's been more than three months since your last one.

If your doctor refers you to a hospital specialist, they may do some other tests. These could include a transvaginal ultrasound scan, when a specially designed ultrasound probe is put inside the lower part of your vagina to get images of your uterus, and to check how thick its wall lining is. If the scan shows any changes to the lining, then the specialist will take a small sample of cells (a biopsy) taken. This will be done either as a pipelle biopsy or with a hysteroscopy.

Treating cancer of the uterus

If the tests show you have cancer of the uterus, the treatment will depend on the type and size of the cancer and whether it has spread. It may include surgery such as removing your uterus (a hysterectomy). Other treatments may include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

After your treatment is finished your specialist will discuss how often you need check-ups. They will also give you information on how to look out for specific symptoms or side effects.

If you have any questions it's important to discuss them with your specialist. Your healthcare team can also give you advice and emotional support.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

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