What are the symptoms of endometrial cancer?
In most cases the first symptom of cancer of the inside lining of the womb (uterus) - known as endometrial cancer - is abnormal vaginal bleeding such as:
- Vaginal bleeding past the menopause. This can range from spotting to more heavy bleeds. This is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer.
- Bleeding after having sex (postcoital bleeding).
- Bleeding between normal periods (intermenstrual bleeding) in women who have not gone through the menopause.
Early symptoms that occur in some cases are:
- Pain during or after having sex.
- Vaginal discharge.
- Pain in your lower tummy (abdomen).
All the above symptoms can be caused by various other common conditions. However, if you develop any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Note: a cervical screening test does not screen for endometrial cancer.
In time, if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, various other symptoms can develop.
How common is endometrial cancer?
Each year about 8,600 women in the UK develop cancer of the inside lining of the womb (uterus), known as endometrial cancer. Most cases develop in women aged in their 50s and 60s. It rarely develops in women under the age of 50.
What are the types and grades of endometrial cancer?
Most cases of endometrial cancer are called endometrioid adenocarcinomas. These arise from cells which form the glandular tissue in the lining of your endometrium. A sample of cancerous tissue can be looked at under the microscope. By looking at certain features of the cells the cancer can be graded.
- Grade 1 - is a low grade. The cells look reasonably similar to normal endometrial cells. The cancer cells are said to be well differentiated. The cancer cells tend to grow and multiply quite slowly and are not so aggressive.
- Grade 2 - is a middle grade.
- Grade 3 - the cells look very abnormal and are said to be poorly differentiated. The cancer cells tend to grow and multiply quite quickly and are more aggressive.
There are also some rarer types of endometrial cancer.
Further reading and references
Endometrial cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2013)
Morice P, Leary A, Creutzberg C, et al; Endometrial cancer. Lancet. 2015 Sep 4. pii: S0140-6736(15)00130-0. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00130-0.
Wong AW, Lao TH, Cheung CW, et al; Reappraisal of endometrial thickness for the detection of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal bleeding: a retrospective cohort study. BJOG. 2015 Mar 20. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13342.
Kwon JS; Improving survival after endometrial cancer: the big picture. J Gynecol Oncol. 2015 Jul26(3):227-31. doi: 10.3802/jgo.2015.26.3.227.
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