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Uterine Cancer

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Uterine Cancer

(Endometrial Cancer; Cancer, Uterine; Cancer, Endometrial; Endometrial Adenocarcinoma)


Uterine cancer is the growth of cancer cells that start in the uterus. The walls of the uterus are made of an inner and outer lining. The endometrium is the inner lining. This is where the most common type of uterine cancer begins.

This fact sheet will focus on endometrial cancer.

Uterine Cancer

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Cancer is the out of control growth of cells. The cells form a clump of tissue called a growth or tumor. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues. It can then spread to other parts of the body.

The exact cause of uterine cancer is not known. It may be linked to exposure to the hormone estrogen. Genes and the environment may also play a role.

Risk Factors

Uterine cancer is more common in females over 40 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Long term use of estrogens (without progesterone) or tamoxifen in high doses
  • Early start of menstrual periods
  • Late menopause
  • History of abnormal cells or polyps in the uterus
  • Health problems such as:
  • Infertility, or never having a pregnancy
  • A family history of:
    • Uterine cancer
    • Cowden syndrome or Lynch syndrome


Problems may be:

  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting in postmenopausal women
  • Belly bloating or fullness
  • Pelvic pain


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A pelvic exam and Pap test will be done. Blood tests will be done to look for signs that point to cancer. Other tests may include:

  • Ultrasound—to view the pelvic area
  • Hysteroscopy—to view the uterus using a lighted scope
  • Biopsy—to remove a small tissue sample from the uterus for testing
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C)—to remove samples of uterine tissue for testing

Uterine cancer is staged from 1 to 4. Stage 1 is a cancer that has stayed in one area. Stage 4 is a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.


Treatments for uterine cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. Surgery will be done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Surgery to remove the uterus is called hysterectomy. Nearby tissue, such as ovaries or lymph tissue, may also need to be removed. Other treatments may include:

  • Radiation therapy— to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
  • Hormone therapy—to stop or slow cancer growth and spread by changing how cancer cells work
  • Chemotherapy—to kill cancer cells in cancer that has or may have spread to other areas of the body


The risk of uterine cancer may be lowered by:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthful diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains




  • Endometrial cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
  • Endometrial cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Endometrial cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
  • General information about endometrial cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
  • 1/11/2018 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Jordan SJ, Na R, Johnatty SE, et al. Breastfeeding and endometrial cancer risk: an analysis from the epidemiology of cancer consortium. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;129(6):10599-1067.
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.