What is uterine (endometrial) cancer?

Uterine cancer is cancer of the uterus, which houses the foetus during pregnancy. The most common type of uterine cancer is endometrial cancer, which accounts for 95% of all uterine cancer cases. Endometrial cancer is cancer that arises from the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium). In Australia, the survival rate for common uterine cancer is 83% to five years.

There are other rare uterine cancers such as uterine serous carcinoma and uterine sarcoma  which are associated with poor overall survival. Uterine serous carcinoma is an aggressive cancer that has a high tendance to present with advanced disease. Uterine sarcoma is another rare type of cancer that forms in the muscle or other tissues of the uterus. It usually occurs after menopause. Uterine sarcomas manifest into three subtypes – leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma and carcinosarcoma.

Uterine (endometrial) cancer symptoms

Symptoms of uterine cancer include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, including vaginal bleeding after menopause, and unusual discharge
  • A mass or lump in the vagina
  • Frequent urination
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

Symptoms of endometrial cancer include:

  • Watery, bloody or smelly vaginal discharge*
  • Pain during sex
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

While these are known symptoms of uterine and endometrial cancer, they may also be symptoms of other unrelated conditions. Our advice is to consult your doctor, as early as possible, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

*Please note: Abnormal bleeding or discharge can happen before or after menopause, and it is usually not due to endometrial cancer. However, all women with unusual bleeding or discharge should see their doctor, and all postmenopausal women who have vaginal bleeding should be referred to a gynaecologist.

What causes uterine (endometrial) cancer?

There are multiple factors that may increase an individual’s risk of developing uterine (endometrial) cancer:

A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as family history and inherited factors.

  • Environmental factors – individuals that have a sedentary lifestyle may be at greater risk of developing endometrial cancer, as recent evidence has shown that maintaining a healthy body weight and regular exercise can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Reproductive factors – delayed menopause (occurring over the age of 55) and premature periods (occurring before the age of 12) are associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer.
  • Pre-existing conditions – individuals with diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, high blood pressure and endometriosis may also be at greater risk of developing uterine cancer, though current research findings are inconclusive.
  • Genetics – individuals who have inherited gene abnormalities like Lynch Syndrome (mismatch repair gene mutation) or Cowden’s Syndrome (PTEN gene mutation) have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer. A family history of uterine or colorectal cancer can also make an individual more likely to develop uterine cancer.

Risk factors for uterine sarcoma include:

  • Past treatment with radiotherapy to the pelvis
  • Treatment with tamoxifen for breast cancer, especially for a long time (5 years or more).

How is uterine cancer treated?

Women with uterine cancer will undertake a hysterectomy thereby losing their fertility and experience ongoing side-effects from radiation and chemotherapy.

WomenCan are proud to support the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG), the peak uterine cancer research foundation in Australia.

All funds donated through WomenCan go towards ANZGOG’s gynaecological cancer research trials including clinical trials that aim to improve diagnosis and treatment of uterine and endometrial cancer.

Uterine cancer statistics

Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynaecological cancer and the fifth most common type of cancer affecting Australian women. 

  • Approximately  Australian women are diagnosed 2,643 with uterine cancer each year
  • Approximately 500 New Zealand women are diagnosed with endometrial cancer each year
  • Uterine cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women over the age of 50
  • One in 60 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer by the age of 75
  • When diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate of uterine cancer in Australia is 85%

"I can think of no better way to make a lasting impact on the health and well being of women with cancer than to be an advocate of clinical trials"

Assoc Prof Alison Brand AM, ANZGOG Director

Gynaecological Oncologist

Donate to Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer

You can help us improve the treatment and quality of life outcomes for women with uterine and endometrial cancer. Donate through WomenCan and support ANZGOG’s uterine cancer research trials at over 50 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.

Donate to ANZGOG's uterine/endmoetrial cancer research through WomenCan

Find out more about ANZGOG’s ongoing gynaecological cancer research trials



Stay informed with the latest news on women’s cancer research