Uterine/Endometrial cancer is cancer that arises from the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium). It is the most common type of cancer of the uterus, and the most common gynaecological cancer diagnosed in Australian women. Due to an early warning symptom (abnormal uterine/vaginal bleeding) the vast majority of patients with uterine cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. 

Estimated 2017 cases in Australia

  • Uterine cancer is estimated to be the 5th most commonly diagnosed cancer among females;
  • 2861 women diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2017 ie. 4.6% of all new female cases of cancer diagnosed;
  • 453 female deaths from uterine cancer in 2017, which is 2.2% of all female deaths from cancer;
  • Outcomes are generally excellent with more than 83% of patients with uterine cancer survive the five year mark. Patients with high-risk uterine cancer (ie. uterine papillary serous carcinoma) have a worse outcome.

Risk Factors

  • obesity (often with diabetes and high blood pressure)
  • history of chronic anovulation, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • treatment with oestrogen that is not given along with progesterone therapy
  • treatment with tamoxifen
  • family history of endometrial, ovarian or colon cancer, or Lynch syndrome
  • never being pregnant.

Endometrial cancer is not infectious. It is not caused by sexual activity and cannot be passed on through sex.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal discharge, particularly if it occurs after menopause. The discharge can appear watery or bloody, and may have a bad smell.

Abnormal bleeding or discharge can happen before or after menopause, and it is usually not due to endometrial cancer. However, all women with unusual bleeding or discharge should see their doctor, and all postmenopausal women who have vaginal bleeding should be referred to a gynaecologist.

Other symptoms can include:

  • discomfort or pain in the abdomen (belly)
  • difficult or painful urination
  • pain during sex.

Many conditions can cause these symptoms, not just endometrial cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may refer you for tests to see if you have cancer.

Treatment

Standard treatment is a full hysterectomy, removal of both fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The extent of the disease will be determined by preoperative imaging and removal of lymph nodes along the large blood vessels in the pelvis. Most patients do not require postoperative treatment. However, patients at higher risk of relapse are recommended to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of both, depending on the cell type and extent of the disease.

Detailed information about diagnosis testing and  treatment options can be found on the Cancer Australia website.

Research

Current research focuses on less invasive surgical techniques, which may lead to improved recovery from surgery with equal chances for survival. For patients with high-risk uterine cancer, we are trying to find combinations of treatment (including new biological agents) to improve survival.

Source: Cancer Australia 2017