Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer and is the most common gynecologic cancer (which includes cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, vulva, vagina and fallopian tubes). It develops from the abnormal growth of cells in the inner lining of the uterus, called the endometrium.
Common endometrial cancer symptoms
Most of the women diagnosed with endometrial cancer—about 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society—experience abnormal vaginal bleeding patterns, such as between periods or after menopause. Other symptoms may include:
- Abnormal, non-bloody vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain or cramping
- Unexplained weight loss
- A tumor or mass
These symptoms may also appear in non-cancerous conditions. There is no screening test designed to detect endometrial cancer, and it is often missed by Pap tests, so it is important to consult a doctor about any abnormalities for a proper diagnosis.
Advanced treatments for endometrial cancer
Common endometrial cancer treatments include:
Surgery: The most common first-line treatment for endometrial cancer is a hysterectomy to remove the uterus and cervix, along with the tubes and ovaries. For staging and diagnostic purposes, lymph nodes in the abdomen and pelvis may also be removed. When possible, these procedures may be performed with minimally invasive robotic surgery.
Radiation therapy: If patients cannot undergo surgery for some reason, radiation therapy may be used as the primary treatment. By pinpointing the tumors directly with precise technology, radiation therapy is designed to kill the cancer while reducing the amount of damage to healthy tissue.
We offer two types of radiation therapy to treat endometrial cancer:
Chemotherapy: In some cases, chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery. While chemotherapy targets cancer cells, it may also damage healthy cells and cause certain side effects. Your care team will use a number of measures to anticipate and address chemotherapy-related side effects to make you more comfortable.
Hormone therapy: In some rare instances, especially to treat a recurrence of endometrial cancer, your care team may recommend hormone therapy, which is designed to lower estrogen levels in the body to slow cancer growth. One common regimen may include progestins, a synthetic form of progesterone designed to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Other drugs may reduce estrogen levels or block its effect on cancer cells, including tamoxifen and gonadoptropin-releasing hormone agonists.
Fertility preservation: Treatment for endometrial cancer may affect a woman’s ability to conceive, especially if the recommended treatment involves surgery. Even without surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may damage the reproductive system. In such cases, ovarian cortex cryopreservation may be an option for women of childbearing age who want to preserve their ability to get pregnant after cancer treatment. Ovarian cortex cryopreservation involves freezing ovarian tissue before cancer treatment, then implanting the thawed tissue after treatment is complete.