Cancer of the Uterus

Basic information about uterine cancer, including the most common types.

Most cancers are named for the part of the body in which they begin. The most common type of cancer of the uterus begins in the endometrium. This type of cancer is called endometrial or uterine cancer. The term uterine cancer refers to cancer that begins in the endometrium. A different type of cancer, uterine sarcoma, develops in the uterine muscle. Cancer that begins in the cervix is also a different type of cancer. This booklet does not deal with uterine sarcoma or cancer of the cervix. (Information about cancer of the cervix. can be found in the cancer section of the library on this Web site.)

As uterine cancer grows, it may invade nearby organs. Uterine cancer cells also may break away from the tumor and spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, and bones. When cancer spreads to another part of the body, the new cancer has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the original (primary) cancer. For example, if uterine cancer spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells in the new tumor are uterine cancer cells. Cancer that has spread from the uterus to other parts of the body is called metastatic uterine cancer; it is not lung cancer.

Preparing for Treatment

Many people with cancer want to learn all they can about the disease and their treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their medical care. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of everything to ask the doctor. Often, it helps to make a list of questions. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor--to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.

People do not need to ask all of their questions or remember all of the answers at one time. Questions may arise throughout the treatment process. Patients may ask doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team to explain things further or to provide more information.

These are some questions a patient may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What is the stage of the disease?
  • What is the grade of the disease?
  • What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
  • What new treatments are being studied in clinical trials? Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will treatment affect my normal activities? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost?

Follow-up Care

It is important for women who have had uterine cancer to have regular follow-up examinations after their treatment is over, in case the cancer comes back. Follow-up care is a part of the overall treatment plan, and women with cancer should not hesitate to discuss it with the doctor. Regular follow-up care ensures that any changes in health are discussed, and any recurrent cancer can be treated as soon as possible. Between follow-up appointments, women who have had uterine cancer should report any health problems as soon as they appear.

Checkups may include a physical exam, a pelvic exam, a chest x-ray, and laboratory tests.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc.

This article is adapted from information in the What You Need to Know About™ Cancer series, published by the National Cancer Institute.

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