Cancer of the Uterus

Cancer of the Uterus (Womb)

What is cancer of the uterus?

There are different types of cancer, which can develop in the uterus (womb). The two main types of cancer of the womb are cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the womb) and cancer of the cervix (the neck of the womb). The term cancer of the uterus (womb) is usually taken to refer only to cancer of the endometrium. See the section entitled Cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer) for details of that condition.

The endometrium or lining builds up every month and is then shed during a woman's period. This happens until the menopause. Cancer may develop if there are changes in the cells of the endometrium in the few years just before the menopause or in the years after.

This type of cancer is more commonly found in women over the age of 50. It is estimated that only around 5% of endometrial cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40.

Endometrial cancer occurs more commonly in women who have never had children. However, taking the oral contraceptive pill lowers the risk of developing endometrial cancer.

What are the symptoms of cancer of the uterus?

The first sign is usually irregular bleeding from the vagina or a blood-stained discharge. This is a critically important sign in women after the menopause and must never be ignored.

In premenopausal women, cancer of the uterus may make their periods heavier or more irregular.

Bleeding in between periods may also be a warning sign.

If you have any form of vaginal bleeding other than your normal period, you should consult your doctor without delay.

How is cancer of the uterus treated?

In most cases, surgery to remove the womb (a hysterectomy) will be required. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be required.

If the diagnosis is made reasonably early, the outlook following surgery is usually excellent with a survival rate of over 80%.

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