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Uterine cancer: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatments

Uterine cancer: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatments

The uterus, or womb, is an organ that sits in the lower abdomen just above the vagina and below the bladder. The upper part of the uterus, called the fundus, has two horns called fallopian tubes that lead to the ovaries. Both tubes are attached to each other at their center by a small piece of tissue called the isthmus. This article covers what is uterine cancer, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatments.

For complete information, read this article till the end!

What is uterine cancer?

Uterine cancer is a type of tumor that forms in one or both of your uterus. The uterus is a major part of female reproductive system, which is made up of fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, vagina and uterus.

Women develop uterine tumors when abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and become malignant. These types of tumors are called cancers.

There are many different types of cancers but each starts from specific group of cells and behaves in its own way. Cancers can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of your body, while malignant tumours can spread to other parts if they are not treated quickly enough.

This type of cancer most commonly affects women who are over 40 years old but it can affect younger women too.

Causes of uterine cancer?

The exact cause of uterine cancer is not yet known. There are a few factors that increase your risk for developing this cancer; these include obesity, older age (risk increases after menopause), early menarche (first period), late menopause, never having children or bearing more than one child, hormonal imbalances and exposure to radiation.

Having a family history of uterine cancer also increases your risk for developing it. Women who smoke are at higher risk as well.

Finally, women with Lynch syndrome, a genetic disorder associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer, have an even greater likelihood of getting uterus cancer.

There are four main types of uterine cancer:

  • adenocarcinoma;
  • squamous cell carcinoma;
  • clear cell carcinoma; and
  • sarcomas.

Adenocarcinomas account for 80% to 90% percent all cases of cancers found in the uterus. Squamous cell carcinomas make up 10% to 20%. Clear cell carcinomas make up 2% to 3%. Sarcomas are rare and only account for 1% of uterine cancers.

Diagnosis for uterine cancer:

Diagnosis of uterine cancer can be tricky. If you think you have symptoms of this tumor, it’s important to go to your doctor as soon as possible.

Uterine tumors are often not discovered until they are large enough to cause symptoms like vaginal bleeding or irregular menstrual cycles (which is why regular pap smears are essential).

But don’t wait!

The earlier a tumor is found and treated, the greater chance you have for a successful recovery. It’s also important to note that many women who develop uterus cancer never experience any symptoms; if you have any concerns about potential signs of uterine tumor, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

Symptoms of uterine cancer:

The symptoms of uterine cancer can vary depending on where in your body the cancer is found. If you have abnormal bleeding from your vagina or abnormal discharge from your vagina, those symptoms may be caused by other conditions that are not uterine cancers.

Call your health care provider to determine if these symptoms are due to something other than uterine cancers.

If it turns out that you do have a uterine cancer, then your health care provider will try to figure out which type of cancer it is based on its location within your uterus.

A lot of women with cervical and endometrial cancers experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. Some also experience pain during intercourse (dyspareunia), pain during bowel movements (dyschezia), and pelvic pain.

In some cases, patients don’t have any symptoms at all until they notice a lump in their abdomen or pelvis. This can happen because cancer cells often spread outside of your uterus before they cause any noticeable changes inside your body.

In addition to having abdominal or pelvic pain, patients with advanced uterine cancer may also experience fatigue and weight loss for no obvious reason.

Treatment options:

The first step in treating any type of cancer is to undergo surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Many women suffering from uterine cancer will opt for a hysterectomy—removing their uterus in order to prevent any further spread of disease throughout the body.

However, even after surgery, there are usually several additional treatment options depending on your overall health. These may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapies designed to attack specific types of cells.

If you’re diagnosed with this cancer, it’s important to speak with your doctor about all available treatment options so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.

The most common symptoms associated with uterus cancer are abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain. While these symptoms may be uncomfortable or distressing, they do not necessarily indicate that you have uterine tumor.

Risk factors:

Research suggests that there are certain risk factors for uterine cancer. Women who take birth control pills for extended periods of time have a higher risk of uterine cancer than other women.

Long-term exposure to X-rays also appears to increase a woman’s chances of developing this cancer at some point in her life. Other lifestyle factors can contribute to an increased likelihood of developing uters cancer as well.

For example, drinking alcohol is associated with an elevated risk of uterine tumor; smokers also appear to be more likely to develop uterine cancer than nonsmokers.

Obesity is another common risk factor for this cancer.

Prevention tips:

Uterine cancer can be prevented in some cases. For example, practicing safer sex will help lower your risk of developing cervical or vaginal cancers. Avoiding exposure to chemicals that may contain carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in your workplace or environment is also advised if you are concerned about developing uterus cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends limiting your consumption of processed meat and red meat, since these foods have been linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Finally, maintaining a healthy weight by getting regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce cancer risks overall.

Take away

There are two types of uterine cancers – endometrial (found in uterus lining) and cervical (in cervix). These cancers are quite rare with only 1 in 5 women diagnosed with uterine cancer being a fatal one. If you notice any symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor immediately for a check-up. The earlier uterine cancer is diagnosed, greater is your chance of surviving.

Uterine cancer can be treated by surgery or chemotherapy. However, it may reoccur after treatment and hence regular check-ups should be done to detect early signs of recurrence. Although there are no definite preventative measures against uterine cancer, adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining normal body weight, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking can help reduce risk factors associated with developing uterine cancer.

You should also avoid using tampons as they have been linked to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

Related Articles:


  1. Cancer Progress and Priorities: Uterine Cancer; Ashley S. Felix; Louise A. Brinton; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev (2018) 27 (9): 985–994; Volume 27, Issue 9 1 September 2018.
  2. Treatment of high-risk uterine cancer with whole abdominopelvic radiation therapy; Ron S Smith and Daniel S Kapp; Volume 48, Issue 3, 1 October 2000, Pages 767-778.
  3. Rare uterine cancer: Carcinosarcomas. Review from histology to treatment; Grazia Artiolia Jacopo Wabersich; Volume 94, Issue 1, April 2015, Pages 98-104
  4. 85 – Uterine Cancer; John F. Boggess, Joshua E. Kilgore and Arthur-Quan Tran; 2020, Pages 1508-1524.e4.
  5. An overview of uterine cancer and its management; Jonathan Carter & Selvan Pather; Pages 33-41 | Published online: 10 Jan 2014.

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