Uterine cancer encompasses endometrial cancer, the most common gynecologic malignancy in the U.S., as well as uterine sarcomas, which account for just 3 percent of all uterine cancers. To understand the distinction between the two, it’s helpful to first understand the anatomy of the uterus.
The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s pelvis between the bladder and the rectum.
The uterus has three parts:
- Top: The top (fundus) of your uterus is shaped like a dome. From the top of your uterus, the fallopian tubes extend to the ovaries.
- Middle: The middle part of your uterus is the body (corpus). This is where a baby grows.
- Bottom: The narrow, lower part of your uterus is the cervix. The cervix is a passageway to the vagina.
- Inner layer: The inner layer (lining) of the uterus is the endometrium.
- Outer layer: The outer layer of muscle tissue is the myometrium.
Most uterine cancers begin in the endometrium or inner lining of the uterus; these are endometrial cancers. Those that begin in the supportive tissue and muscle cells of the uterus are classified as uterine sarcomas.
Our Approach to Uterine Cancer
At Roswell Park, we treat all gynecologic cancers with the same level of consideration, whether they are common and highly treatable or extremely rare and aggressive. Endometrial cancer has become the leading cancer of the female reproductive tract (approximately 60,050 new uterine cancer cases estimated for 2016, with 10,470 deaths resulting from the disease), so we see more of these diagnoses than any other gynecologic cancer.
Every patient and every cancer is unique. While we rely on the experience that comes with the volume of endometrial cancer patients we treat, we approach each patient and each cancer individually.
Signs & Symptoms
A majority of uterine cancers are diagnosed because women report abnormal or post-menopausal bleeding to their physicians. This sign can be a lifesaver, allowing the cancer to be detected in its earliest, most treatable stages.
The bleeding associated with uterine cancer may start as a watery, blood-streaked flow that gradually contains more blood. Women should not assume that abnormal vaginal bleeding is part of menopause. Additional symptoms may include:
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Difficult or painful urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain in the pelvic area
These symptoms can be caused by cancer or other less serious conditions. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your doctor so that he or she can identify the cause.