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.
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 3,267 Australian women are diagnosed 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 84%
"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
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.