Font Size

Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer

Topic Overview

Is this topic for you?

This topic provides information about cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrium). It does not cover cancer in the muscle of the uterus, which is called uterine sarcoma. This topic focuses on type I endometrial cancer, which is the most common kind of uterine cancer.

If you are looking for information about cancer of the cervix, see the topic Cervical Cancer.

What is endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancerClick here to see an illustration. is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the uterus. The lining is called the endometrium. Endometrial cancer is also called cancer of the uterus, or uterine cancer.

Endometrial cancer usually occurs in women older than 50. The good news is that it is usually cured when it is found early. And most of the time, the cancer is found in its earliest stage, before it has spread outside the uterus.

What causes endometrial cancer?

The most common cause of type I endometrial cancer is having too much of the hormone estrogen compared to the hormone progesterone in the body. This hormone imbalance causes the lining of the uterus to get thicker and thicker. If the lining builds up and stays that way, then cancer cells can start to grow.

Women who have this hormone imbalance over time may be more likely to get endometrial cancer after age 50. This hormone imbalance can happen if a woman:

  • Is obese. Fat cells make extra estrogen, but the body doesn't make extra progesterone to balance it out.
  • Takes estrogen without taking a progestin.
  • Is taking tamoxifen.
  • Has polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes hormone imbalance.
  • Starts her period before age 12 or starts menopause after age 55.
  • Has never been pregnant or had a full-term pregnancy.
  • Has never breast-fed.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of endometrial cancer include:

  • Bleeding or vaginal discharge not related to your period (menstruation).
  • Difficult or painful urination.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Pelvic pain.

How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?

Endometrial cancer is usually diagnosed with a biopsy. In this test, the doctor removes a small sample of the lining of the uterus to look for cancer cells.

How is it treated?

Endometrial cancer in its early stages can be cured. The main treatment is surgery to remove the uterus plus the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. This is called a hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. The doctor may also remove pelvic and aortic lymph nodesClick here to see an illustration. to see if the cancer has spread.

A woman whose cancer has spread may also have:

It's common to feel scared, sad, or angry after finding out that you have endometrial cancer. Talking to others who have had the disease may help you feel better. Ask your doctor about support groups in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about endometrial cancer:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with endometrial cancer:

End-of-life decisions:

Next Page:

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Medical Dictionary