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What is Endometrial Cancer?

Front view cross section of uterus and vagina showing endometrium lining inside of uterus.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body change and start growing out of control. Cancer cells can form lumps of tissue called tumors. Cancer that starts in the lining of the uterus is called endometrial cancer.

Understanding the uterus and endometrium

The uterus is part of the female reproductive system. It's the organ that holds the baby when a woman is pregnant. The endometrium is the inside lining of the uterus. Each month, from puberty to menopause, the lining grows and thickens to prepare for pregnancy. This thickened lining helps to nourish a growing baby. If a woman doesn’t become pregnant, the lining of the uterus is shed. This is her period.

When endometrial cancer forms

The endometrium is the most common place in the uterus for cancer to begin. It's the most common type of gynecologic cancer (cancer in the female reproductive system). Cancer can destroy tissue in the uterus. Cancer cells may spread to nearby organs. They can also spread to other parts of the body. When cancer spreads, it is called metastasis. In general, the more cancer spreads, the harder it is to treat.

Treatment options for cancer of the uterus

You and your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment options. These may include:

  • Surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).

  • Radiation therapy. This uses directed rays of high-energy to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy. This uses strong medicine to kill cancer cells.

  • Hormone therapy. This may help slow the growth of cancer cells.

  • Biologic therapy (immunotherapy). This uses medicines that act like your body's own immune system to fight cancer. (In clinical trials)

 

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