- Uterine cancer is the most diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australia and the fifth most common cancer in Australian women, accounting for 4.6% of all new cancer diagnoses in women
- It is estimated that 1 in 44 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer by the age of 85
Uterine cancer develops when cells grow and divide abnormally in the uterus.
The uterus is part of the female reproductive system and is made up of two layers: the myometrium (the outer layer of muscle tissue) and the endometrium (the inner layer or lining).
There are two main types of uterine cancer, which depend on the layer of the uterus that the cancer develops in:
As signs and symptoms for uterine cancer can be similar to other common conditions, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms below. Discussing anything concerning with your doctor as soon as possible can help give you peace of mind and offer the best chance of successful treatment if you receive a uterine cancer diagnosis.
Uterine cancer can be difficult to detect as it may not cause any symptoms at early stages. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Unexplained weight loss
Unpleasant smelling and/or watery discharge
Pain during sexual intercourse
Uterine cancer is typically staged using the FIGO (International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics) system, which helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like.
Within each stage of uterine cancer, there are sub-stages listed from A through to D which describe the extent of the tumour. The FIGO system, along with other tests, helps determine the stage of your uterine cancer using the guidelines below:
The tumour is confined to the inner half of the thickness of the myometrium
The tumour involves more than half of the thickness of the myometrium
The tumour has spread to the cervical stroma, but not outside the uterus
The cancer has spread to the serosa, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries
The cancer has spread to the vagina or tissue around the uterus (parametrium)
The cancer has spread beyond the uterus to the pelvic lymph nodes, but not to the inner lining of the rectum or urinary bladder
The cancer has spread beyond the uterus to the lymph nodes around the aorta, but not to the inner lining of the rectum or urinary bladder
The cancer has spread to the inner lining of the rectum or urinary bladder, and may or may not have spread to surrounding lymph nodes
The cancer has spread to the inguinal lymph nodes, the upper abdomen, omentum or distant organs including the lung, liver or bones
Your likelihood of developing uterine cancer may be increased if you have a family history of ovarian, uterine or bowel cancer. Other genetic conditions, including Cowden syndrome or Lynch syndrome, may also increase your risk of uterine cancer.
The exact cause of uterine cancer is unknown, however there are some factors which are known to increase the risk for development of uterine cancers including your age, medical history, weight and genetics.
Risk factors that have been associated with developing uterine cancer include:
- Age – Uterine cancer is more common in Australian women who are post-menopausal
- Medical history – Having certain medical conditions can increase your risk of developing uterine cancer, including high blood pressure, diabetes, ovarian tumours, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometrial hyperplasia and having received hormone replacement therapy. Women who have never been pregnant also have an increased risk of developing uterine cancer
- Weight – Obesity has been found to increase your chance of developing uterine cancer
- Genetics – People with familial history of uterine, ovarian and bowel cancer or certain inherited syndromes, including Cowden syndrome and Lynch syndrome, have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer
Uterine cancer is the most diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australia and the fifth most common cancer in Australian women, accounting for 4.6% of all new cancer diagnoses in women.
There are many different tests that are used to diagnose uterine cancer, alongside a physical examination.
Tests to diagnose uterine cancer include:
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Endometrial biopsy, or hysteroscopy and biopsy
- CT scan
- PET scan
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- Cancer Australia. (2020). Uterine cancer statistics. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/uterine-cancer/uterine-cancer-statistics
- Cancer Council Australia. (2021). Uterine cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/uterine-cancer
- Cancer Council Victoria. (2021). Uterine cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/uterine_cancer/uterine-cancer-overview.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Endometrial cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometrial-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352466
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020). Uterine Cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/uterine-cancer/risk-factors-and-prevention
- American Cancer Society. (2019). Endometrial Cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html
- Victoria State Government. (2015). Uterine Cancer. Retrieved on 8 April 2021 at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/uterine-cancer
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