Uterine Cancer

When uterine cancer is found early, treatment works best.

The uterus is a hollow organ, about the size and shape of a medium-sized pear. It has two main parts: The lower end of the uterus, which extends into the vagina, is called the cervix. The upper part of the uterus is called the body, and is also known as the corpus.

The body of the uterus has three layers. The inner layer or lining is called the endometrium. The serosa is the layer of tissue coating the outside of the uterus. In the middle is a thick layer of muscle that is also known as the myometrium. This muscle layer is needed to push a baby out during childbirth. Uterine sarcoma is a cancer of the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus (womb).

Source: American Cancer Society

Risk factors

Only a few factors are known to increase a woman's risk of developing a uterine sarcoma.

  • If you have had pelvic radiation, your risk for developing uterine sarcomas is increased. These cancers usually are diagnosed 5 to 25 years after exposure to the radiation.
  • Uterine sarcomas are about twice as common in African-American women as they are in white or Asian women. The reason for this increased risk is unknown.
  • Women who have had a type of eye cancer called retinoblastoma that was caused by being born with an abnormal copy of the RB gene have an increased risk of getting uterine leiomyosarcomas.

Source: American Cancer Society

Symptoms

In most cases, the possibility of uterine sarcoma is suggested by certain symptoms. These symptoms do not always mean that a woman has a uterine sarcoma. Still, if you are having these problems, you should see a doctor to see find the cause and get any needed treatment. 

  • Abnormal bleeding or spotting: If you have gone through menopause, any vaginal bleeding or spotting is abnormal, and it should be reported to your health care professional right away. About 85% of patients diagnosed with uterine sarcomas have irregular vaginal bleeding (between periods) or bleeding after menopause. This symptom is more often caused by something other than cancer, but it is important to have a medical evaluation of any irregular bleeding right away. Of the uterine sarcomas, leiomyosarcomas are less likely to cause abnormal bleeding than endometrial stromal sarcomas and undifferentiated sarcomas. 
  • Vaginal discharge: About 10% of women with uterine sarcomas have a vaginal discharge that does not have any visible blood. A discharge is most often a sign of infection or another benign condition, but it also can be a sign of cancer. Any abnormal discharge should be investigated by your health care professional. 
  • Pelvic pain and/or a mass: When they are first diagnosed, about 10% of women with uterine sarcomas have pelvic pain and/or a mass (tumor) that can be felt. You or your doctor may be able to feel the mass in your uterus, or you might have a feeling of fullness in your pelvis. 

Learn more about risk factors, staging and treatment from the American Cancer Society.

Source: American Cancer Society


Treatment

After the diagnostic tests are done, your cancer care team will recommend one or more treatment options. Don't feel rushed about making a decision. The choice of treatment depends largely on the type of cancer and stage of the disease when it is diagnosed.

These are the basic types of treatment for women with uterine sarcoma: 

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy

A combination of these treatments may be used. Which treatments are used depends on the type and stage of your cancer as well as your overall medical condition.

Most women with uterine sarcoma have surgery to remove the cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy are sometimes given to lower the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery. These treatments may also be used for cancers that cannot be removed with surgery or when a woman can't have surgery because she has other health problems.

Source: American Cancer Society