Uterine cancer (also called endometrial cancer) is cancer that forms in cells that make up the lining of the uterus (the womb). There are several types of uterine cancer.
At the Duke Cancer Institute, our goal is to provide comprehensive care for uterine cancer in a setting that emphasizes emotional support for patients and their families.
Duke Cancer Institute's caregivers are dedicated to providing patients with the latest therapies to fight uterine cancer. A team of physicians, nurses, social workers, and others provide comprehensive care in a setting that emphasizes emotional and educational support for patients and their families.
As part of a leading academic medical center, the Duke Cancer Institute also offers patients access to clinical trials of new therapies for gynecologic cancers, including uterine cancer.
Approximately 40,000 new cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Uterine cancer most often occurs after menopause, but can also occur before or during menopause.
Sometimes uterine cancer will show up on Pap tests. However, since Pap tests examine cells from the cervix, uterine cancer is not typically diagnosed this way.
To confirm a cancer diagnosis, a biopsy of cells from the uterine lining must be performed.
If uterine cancer is detected, additional tests may be ordered to appropriately stage the disease in order to plan the most appropriate and effective treatment. These tests may include:
Uterine cancer is very curable, especially when it is found and treated before it has spread. Each patient’s treatment plan is individualized, taking into account the type and stage of their cancer in order to achieve the best result possible.
Surgery is the most common treatment for uterine cancer. Duke Cancer Institute physicians are among the leaders in adapting laparoscopic and robotic surgical approaches to the treatment of gynecologic cancers.
Surgery involves removal of the uterus and cervix (total hysterectomy), the ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Learn more about surgery for gynecologic cancer.
During surgery, lymph nodes near the tumor may also be removed (lymphadenectomy). This allows the pathologist to determine if the disease has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized).
If the cancer has not spread outside of the uterus, surgery is often the only treatment needed.
For women who are not eligible for surgery, radiation therapy may be the recommended treatment. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in the body. Advanced radiation planning methods are used to minimize the risk of injury to normal tissues.
Radiation therapy may also be used to help shrink the tumor prior to surgery or destroy any cancer cells remaining after surgery.
Hormone therapy helps keep cancer from spreading by preventing cancer cells from using the hormones they need to grow.
During hormone therapy, drugs such as progestins or anti-estrogens are taken by mouth. The drugs enter the bloodstream and help control the cancer cells throughout the body. Progesterone may also be delivered by an intrauterine device placed inside the uterus.
Hormone therapy may be given to women who cannot have radiation therapy or surgery. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatments.
Chemotherapy is most often used to treat uterine cancer when the cancer has spread beyond the uterus. Chemotherapy is usually an outpatient procedure.
For uterine cancer chemotherapy is administered to the whole body either by taking a pill or receiving it in a vein, via an IV.
Learn how to make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute.