Endometrial cancer is cancer of the endometrium. The endometrium is the lining of the uterus (sometimes called the womb). Endometrial cancer can almost always be treated successfully if it's caught early. You can increase the chances that endometrial cancer will be found early by telling your doctor about any unusual bleeding.
The most common sign of endometrial cancer is unusual bleeding from your vagina, especially bleeding after menopause.
Certain things may put you at greater risk for getting endometrial cancer. One risk factor is age. Endometrial cancer is most common in women who are older than 50 years of age.
You may also be at greater risk if you have had high levels of estrogen in your body. Many things can increase your estrogen level. These include being extremely overweight, having high blood pressure or having diabetes.
Using estrogen replacement therapy without taking progestin may also increase the risk for endometrial cancer. For this reason, women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) usually take a combination of estrogen and the hormone progestin. While estrogen stimulates growth of the endometrium, progestin seems to protect the lining of the uterus from the estrogen. In fact, using birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin during the childbearing years seems to decrease a woman's risk of endometrial cancer.
Other things that may put you at greater risk for endometrial cancer include having your first period before 12 years of age or going through menopause after 50 years of age. Women who have never been pregnant and women who use a medicine called tamoxifen may also be at greater risk.
Your doctor will diagnose endometrial cancer by performing one or more of the following procedures:
Your doctor will talk to you about which procedure is right for you.
Treatment usually involves removing the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. You may also need to take progestin to balance out high levels of estrogen. Sometimes radiation therapy or chemotherapy is also needed. Treatment can be very effective, especially if the cancer is found early.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff