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Women's Health

Mercy Women's Care at St. Anne
3404 W. Sylvania Avenue
Toledo, OH 43623

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Navarre Medical Plaza
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Suite 101
Oregon, OH 43616

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2213 Cherry Street
Toledo, OH 43608

Finding out You have Endometrial Cancer: Making Treatment Decisions


Endometrial cancer originates in the inner lining of the uterus. It accounts for about 90 percent of uterine cancer. It's the most common type of gynecological cancer-cancer of the female reproductive system. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 37,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Endometrial cancer becomes more common after women go through menopause. The average age at which a woman is diagnosed with endometrial cancer is 60.

The uterus is where a fetus grows when you're pregnant. In most women, the uterus is about three inches long. (It becomes larger as it grows when you're pregnant.) The opening of the uterus is called the cervix.

Signs of endometrial cancer

Common signs of endometrial cancer include

  • Unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina
  • Painful urination, or other difficulty urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in your pelvic area

    To determine whether you have endometrial cancer, your doctor typically removes samples of tissue from the inner lining of the uterus. This is done during what's called an "endometrial biopsy," in which a thin flexible tube is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. The tube gently scrapes a small amount of tissue. A pathologist views the sample under a microscope.

    Sometime, the doctor performs what's called a dilatation and curettage, or D&C, to get a tissue sample. The doctor dilates the opening of the cervix and then inserts a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument) into the uterus to remove tissue.


    Treatment is based on whether the cancer has stayed in the lining of the uterus, spread to the muscle layer of the uterus, spread to the outer layer of the uterus, or spread to other parts of the body, including the cervix, bladder, bowel or lymph nodes. It also depends on whether the cancer cells are affected by the hormone progesterone.


    The most common treatment is removal of the tumor through surgery. In many cases, the surgeon removes the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Sometimes the surgeon is able to perform the surgery through the vagina. In other cases, an incision in the abdomen is necessary.

    If you have surgery to remove an endometrial tumor, you're likely to stay in the hospital from a few days up to a week. Most people are able to get back to their normal activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Don't try to speed your recovery too quickly. Take the time you need to rest. If you're in a lot of pain, tell your doctor.

    If your cancer was in an early stage, it's possible that you won't need further treatment after your surgery. Regular follow-up visits will be necessary though.


    If your cancer has spread, or if it's not possible to operate to remove the tumor, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be necessary. Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. For endometrial cancer, external or internal radiation may be used. External radiation is an outpatient procedure in which you receive radiation from a machine that's outside your body. With internal radiation, pellets containing radioactive material are inserted into the upper vagina.

    Side effects of radiation treatment can include

  • Diarrhea
  • Dryness, irritation, burning and tightening in the skin of the vagina
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue

    Hormone therapy

    Some endometrial tumors contain receptors that use the hormone estrogen to grow. Hormone therapy can block or balance out the effects of estrogen and slow down tumor growth. Side effects of hormone therapy can include

  • Fluid retention
  • Increase in appetite
  • Weight gain


    Chemotherapy drugs travel throughout your body to slow down the growth of tumors and to destroy cancer cells that may have spread. It can be used in addition to surgery or to treat cancer that has metastasized, or spread. Side effects of chemotherapy can include

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Infection
  • Low blood cell count
  • Nausea

    If you are getting chemotherapy, it's extremely important to talk with your doctor about your side effects and any other health issues or problems you're having. Make sure you understand the answers to your questions, and if anything's on your mind, talk to your healthcare team about it.

    The American Cancer Society; The National Cancer Institute
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