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Endometrial Cancer (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Women vary considerably in the amount, duration, and frequency of their menstrual periods. A woman should be aware of any bleeding that is abnormal for her. If a woman's periods become much heavier or more frequent, or if a woman is having more than slight spotting between periods, she should talk to a health-care provider. Changes in bleeding or abnormal bleeding can have many different causes. Knowing the cause of a woman's bleeding is important.

How Is Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer Diagnosed?

If a woman is having abnormal vaginal bleeding or other symptoms, the evaluation starts with a detailed interview. A health-care provider asks questions about the woman's symptoms, her medical history and any current conditions, her family's medical history, her menstrual and pregnancy history, and her habits and lifestyle. This information helps the health-care provider determine the cause of the symptoms. The interview is followed by a physical examination, including a pelvic examination.

If a health-care provider suspects uterine cancer, he or she might refer the woman to a specialist in cancers of the female genital tract (gynecologic oncologist).

Lab tests

No blood or imaging studies can confirm the diagnosis of endometrial carcinoma. Lab tests may be performed after endometrial cancer is diagnosed to ensure that a woman is able to undergo treatment and also to monitor treatment progress.

  • Routine blood tests: Tests of blood chemistry, liver and kidney functions, and blood cell counts are done to check a woman's overall health and her ability to tolerate surgery and other therapy.

Imaging studies

In many instances, imaging studies are not necessary but if performed may include the following:

  • Vaginal (transvaginal) ultrasound: Ultrasound is a technique that uses sound waves to take a picture of the internal organs. Ultrasound is the same technique used to look at a fetus in the uterus. To perform a vaginal (transvaginal) ultrasound, a small device called a transducer is inserted into the vagina. The device emits sound waves, which bounce off the pelvic organs and transmit a picture to a video monitor. Often, the examiner moves the transducer around slightly to get a better picture. A vaginal (transvaginal) ultrasound is safe and painless.
  • Hysterosonogram is similar to vaginal (transvaginal) ultrasound, but a saline (saltwater) solution is first injected into the uterus to extend the uterine walls. This procedure can improve the picture in some cases and show the uterus in greater detail.

Ultrasound often can reveal a uterine tumor, but the findings are not always conclusive. Other imaging tests may be needed and might include the following:

  • A CT scan of the pelvis would be the usual choice of a follow-up imaging test. A CT scan is like an X-ray film but shows greater detail in two dimensions. PET imaging using a radioactive isotope may be done with a CT scan to further enhance sensitivity of the test.
  • An MRI of the pelvis is another choice of a follow-up imaging test. An MRI shows great detail in three dimensions.
  • A chest X-ray may be needed if metastasis to the lungs is suspected.
  • A bone scan may be needed if metastasis to the bones is suspected.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/26/2016
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