Uterine Cancer & Endometrial Cancer | Symptoms & Signs | MedStar Health

Uterine Cancer & Endometrial Cancer

A female provider performs an abdominal examination on a female patient who is laying on an exam table in a clinical office setting. Both people are wearing masks.

What is uterine (endometrial) cancer?

Uterine cancer, or edometrial cancer, is a malignancy that develops in the uterus (womb) when abnormal cells multiply out of control. It most commonly develops in the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which is why it's often called endometrial cancer. Therefore, uterine and endometrial cancer are often used interchangeably.

Rarely, cancer can also begin in the uterine wall muscle. This type of cancer is called uterine sarcoma and is treated differently. (Learn more about soft tissue sarcomas.)

When all cases of uterine cancer are considered, the five-year survival rate is over 80 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Survival rates are even higher when the disease is discovered and treated in its earliest stage. Our uterine cancer and endometrial cancer treatment options are available throughout the Washington D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, and Virginia areas

Uterine Cancer

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The term uterine cancer refers to cancers affecting the uterus endometrium and cervix.

Uterine and endometrial cancer symptoms and risk factors

What are common uterine cancer symptoms?

Symptoms will vary by woman, but the most frequent signs of uterine and endometrial cancers include:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding and/or abnormal menstrual periods
  • Bleeding between normal periods, before menopause
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause
  • Extremely long, heavy, or frequent episodes of vaginal bleeding after age 40
  • Lower abdominal pain or pelvic cramping
  • Thin white or clear vaginal discharge after menopause

While these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, it's important to seek care from your doctor early.

What causes uterine (endometrial) cancer?

Although the exact cause of this type of cancer is unknown, increased levels of estrogen (a hormone that helps stimulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus) appear to play a role. In addition, most uterine cancer diagnoses occur in women between the ages of 60 and 70 years. However, a few cases may occur in women younger than 40 years of age. Other risk factors that may increase your chance of this disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Estrogen replacement therapy without the use of progesterone
  • History of endometrial polyps or other benign growths of the uterine lining
  • Infertility (inability to become pregnant)
  • Tamoxifen, a drug for breast cancer treatment
  • Never being pregnant
  • Obesity
  • Starting menstruation at an early age (before age 12)
  • Starting menopause after age 50
  • Personal or family history of colon, ovarian, or breast cancer
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Polycystic ovarian disease

Screening and prevention

How can I detect uterine (endometrial) cancer early?

A yearly pelvic examination and Pap smear are the first line of defense against uterine cancer. They allow a physician to detect and monitor any changes in the endometrial lining. Here's what you should know.

  • Screening guidelines recommend that women have regular pelvic exams beginning at the onset of sexual activity (or at the age of 21 if not sexually active) to help detect signs of infection or abnormal development.
  • Women with any risk factors for endometrial cancer should be followed more closely by their doctors. Frequent pelvic examinations and screening tests should be considered.
  • Women taking estrogen replacement therapy should have regular pelvic examinations and Pap smears.
Irina Tunnge

Uterine (endometrial) cancer diagnosis

How is this cancer diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects cancer in the endometrium, your first appointment will involve a thorough evaluation, including a pelvic exam. In addition, your gynecologic oncologist may recommend one or more tests or procedures to learn more about your condition, such as:

  • Ultrasound: This imaging test uses sound waves to produce images of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. There are different types of ultrasounds, including a pelvic ultrasound which involves using a small wand (transducer) over the abdomen. In other instances, your doctor may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS), during which the transducer is placed into the vagina to get a better look at the uterus.
  • Endometrial biopsy: Typically an in-office procedure, this involves removing a small sample of tissue from the endometrium for further evaluation under a microscope.
  • Hysteroscopy: Using a thin, lighted tube attached to a tiny video camera (hysteroscope), your doctor may examine the uterus and possibly remove small pieces of tissue for additional study.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): This outpatient procedure involves gently scraping tissue from the uterus using a special instrument.
  • Genetic tests: Because some of these cancers are linked to hereditary syndromes, some patients may elect to undergo genetic counseling and testing.
  • Additional imaging tests: Computed tomography (CT), MRI, or PET scans may be used to determine the stage of disease, or how far it has spread throughout the body.

Types of uterine (endometrial) cancer

What is the most common type of uterine (endometrial) cancer?

Endometrial cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer that begins in the uterus. There are various subtypes of endometrial cancer based on the cell type where they develop. Endometrial adenocarcinoma is the most common subtype. A pathologist will review findings to accurately diagnose the type of cancer you have.

Soft tissue sarcoma can also form in the muscular wall of the uterus, although this is quite rare. Uterine sarcoma is not an endometrial cancer and is treated differently than what is described on this page. Learn more about soft tissue sarcomas.

What are uterine (endometrial) cancer stages?

Cancers are staged from least to most aggressive and include:

  • Stage I: Cancer is only in the uterus.
  • Stage II: Cancer is in the uterus and cervix.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread outside of the uterus but not beyond the true pelvis area. Cancer may involve the lymph nodes in the pelvis or near the aorta (the major artery in the abdomen).
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to the inner surface of the bowel, bladder, abdomen, or other organs.

Uterine (endometrial) cancer treatments

What are common uterine cancer treatments?

If you receive a uterine or endometrial cancer diagnosis, you can expect to be treated by a team of doctors who will collaborate to determine your best treatment options. Treatment will vary based on several factors, including:

  • Your uterine cancer diagnosis (Cancer type and stage)
  • Your overall health
  • Your goals and preferences

You can expect a personalized treatment plan that involves the latest methods available.


Endometrial cancer treatment sometimes involves a total hysterectomy (complete removal of uterus and cervix) with lymph node dissection, depending on the stage of your cancer. Your doctor may also recommend removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries (called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). These procedures may be performed either through an open abdominal incision or via minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted approaches. The advantage of robotic and other minimally invasive procedures is that they allow you to receive cancer treatment with minimal blood loss, less pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster return to work and other normal activities. Your gynecologic oncologist will help you understand your options and what will be most effective in treating your cancer.

Following surgery, some women benefit from additional treatment with radiation and/or chemotherapy. The decision will be based on findings from the tissue removed at surgery, which may show that the cancer is likely to recur or has already spread beyond the uterus.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapy

Depending on the stage of your cancer, you may also benefit from chemotherapy. This type of cancer treatment uses powerful medications to kill cancer cells that may remain after surgery or when cancer has spread.

For some advanced or recurrent uterine cancers, a medical oncologist may recommend hormone therapy, which uses hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to slow cancer growth. This treatment is different from hormonal therapy that may be given to ease menopause symptoms.

Learn More About Chemotherapy

Immunotherapy and targeted therapy

Targeted therapy and immunotherapy are new classes of drugs emerging as effective treatment options for many other types of cancer. We continue investigating their role in treating uterine and endometrial cancer.

Learn More About Immunotherapy

Learn More About Targeted Therapy

Radiation therapy

Radiation alone is the best treatment for certain types of cancer and some benign (non-cancerous) diseases. Other types of cancer may require radiation therapy to be delivered along with other therapeutic agents, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Radiation therapy can be used to shrink endometrial tumors prior to surgical removal, or after surgery, to destroy tumor cells that may exist microscopically in the surgical area. Radiation therapy may be used to cure disease, control disease, or control symptoms of disease (such as pain).

At MedStar Health, our radiation oncologists use the most advanced technology to deliver precise radiation treatments with the least impact to healthy cells. Depending on the situation, your endometrial cancer treatment may involve internal and/or external radiation.

Learn More About Radiation Therapy

Looking for expert cancer care

With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high-quality care, second opinions, and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. The Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

Our locations

Cancer screening locations

Cancer care locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Franklin Square Cancer Center at Loch Raven Campus

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Russell Morgan Building
First Floor
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9103 Franklin Square Dr.
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
Suite 220
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
First Fl.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

Why choose us

When you seek uterine (endometrial) cancer treatment at MedStar Health, you'll gain access to a team of specialists with incredible expertise in personalizing care based on your unique cancer and needs. Patients come to us because:

Our gynecologic oncologists are experts in the latest technology and techniques. With board certifications in gynecologic oncology, our doctors are specially trained to care for women with cancer affecting the female reproductive system. This sub-specialized expertise allows them to stay up-to-date on all of the latest advances in the field, including minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgeries that may improve outcomes and facilitate a faster recovery for many women. And because we're a high-volume center, we see more patients with this type of cancer than most in the region.

Our team leverages the expertise of specialists in several fields to ensure your needs are met. We're experienced in diagnosing and treating all types and stages of uterine cancer and endometrial cancer. Your care team may involve input from doctors and advanced clinicians specializing in gynecologic oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, female pelvic medicine, reconstructive surgery, and other specialties. This ensures we approach your cancer treatment with all possible options, including considerations for sexual and urinary health after treatment.

We offer state-of-the-art care close to where you live and work. With physician offices located throughout the Maryland and Washington, D.C., region, you won't have to go far to get expert gynecologic cancer care. Because physicians at our convenient locations work together to personalize your care, you can worry less about spending time traveling to your appointments while benefiting from the most advanced treatment options available today, wherever you see us.

Awards and recognition

Recipient of an Accreditation with Commendation, the highest level of approval, from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer (CoC)

Numerous surgeons, medical oncologists, and surgical oncologists recognized as "Top Doctors" by both Baltimore Magazine and the Washingtonian

Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Support services

Because we believe in treating you as a person, not a disease, you'll gain access to a variety of programs and services designed to support you as you navigate your cancer diagnosis and treatment. With one electronic health record across the healthcare system, you'll benefit from easy coordination with other specialists who can help address any needs that arise.

Learn More About Cancer Support Services

Genetic counseling

Certain types of uterine cancer are associated with genetic alterations that can be passed down from family member to family member. You may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor who can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of genetic testing as well as strategies for managing you and your family's risk of cancer.

Learn More About Genetic Counseling

Personalized rehabilitation

If you need support regaining strength, mobility, and endurance following uterine cancer treatment, our rehabilitation experts can help. Physical and occupational therapists can help you manage any treatment side effects, such as lymphedema or swelling, and recommend a personalized plan to help you get moving again.

Learn More About Cancer Rehabilitation


Post-treatment, follow-up care is important to monitoring and optimizing your health as you navigate life after cancer. As part of comprehensive cancer treatment, a customized survivorship plan will be to help you stay on top of pelvic exams, lifestyle changes, and coordination with other MedStar Health specialists, when necessary.

Learn More About the Cancer Survivorship Program