About Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer. Uterine cancer rates are highest among black women and are increasing among all women, especially black women. Uterine cancer happens when normal cells in the uterus change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The uterus (also called the womb) is the part of a woman’s body that holds a baby if she is pregnant. The uterus has a thin inner lining layer and a thick outer layer.
There are different types of uterine cancer, but most uterine cancer starts in cells in the thin inner lining. Uterine cancer can occur in women of any age, but is much more common in women who have gone through menopause. Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having menstrual periods.
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Abnormal vaginal bleeding includes:
- Bleeding in between menstrual cycles (at times other than during a period)
- Menstrual bleeding that is heavier than usual
- Any vaginal bleeding in a woman who has already gone through menopause
These symptoms can be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.
Most women with uterine cancer have surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries, and the tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus (fallopian tubes). During surgery, the doctor will also check the area and organs around the uterus to see if the cancer has spread. He or she might remove other organs that look abnormal.
Some women will not need further treatment after surgery if surgery removes the cancer. But other women might need further treatment with one or both of the following:
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells. Radiation can be given from a machine that is outside the body. Or a doctor can put a source of radiation directly into the vagina.
After treatment, patients will be checked every so often to see if the cancer comes back. A doctor or nurse will ask you symptoms and do an exam. Follow-up tests can include blood tests and imaging tests such as X-rays. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.