Medically reviewed by Shawana Moore, DNP, CRNP, WHNP-BC
How Endometrial Cancer Is Diagnosed
Picture of uterus highlighting the lining
Most common cancer of female reproductive organs
4th most diagnosed cancer for U.S. women
Endometrial cancer, a type of uterine cancer, starts in the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus.
Making up 90% of uterine cancers, it’s the most common cancer of female reproductive organs,
and the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer for women in the United States.
Unusual or abnormal bleeding
Any signs of bleeding in postmenopausal women
Abnormal/discolored vaginal discharge
Pelvic pain or pressure
Pain during sexual intercourse
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider so they can check them out
Unusual or abnormal bleeding, including bleeding after you’re postmenopausal; abnormal or discolored vaginal discharge; pelvic pain or pressure; pain during sexual intercourse; or difficulty urinating, can be symptoms of many conditions, including endometrial cancer.
These are not all of the possible symptoms of endometrial cancer and can be associated with other conditions.
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your healthcare provider so they can check them out.
Graphic suggestion: A healthcare provider talking with a woman, demonstrating different options for tests (holding the patient’s chart or a clipboard).
Let’s take a look at how endometrial cancer is diagnosed.
There are no screening tests to check for endometrial cancer in women without symptoms, but if your healthcare provider suspects you may be at risk, there are several tests they can run.
To start, your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms, determine your risk factors and discuss your family history with you.
Internal Pelvic Exam
Then, they may perform an internal pelvic exam . They’ll insert a speculum into your vagina to gently open it.
This helps them get a good look at your vagina and cervix to check for any abnormalities, like lumps or changes in the shape of your uterus.
Your healthcare provider will also feel your uterus and ovaries.
A tube inserts into a uterus.
A female doctor looks at a tissue sample under a microscope.
Another test is an endometrial biopsy. During this procedure, a small, flexible tube is inserted into the uterus and used to collect a tissue sample from the lining.
This tissue will then be analyzed under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.
Dilation & Curettage (D&C)
A person lying down on a table ready to undergo surgery. A doctor wearing a surgical mask is next to them in an operating room.
If further tissue is needed for testing, your healthcare provider may order a dilation and curettage, also known as a D&C .
Your cervix will be dilated and a tissue sample will be scraped from the uterus. This is an outpatient procedure typically performed under general or local anesthesia
A small camera with a light illuminated at the end of it is inserted into the uterus.
Another option is a hysteroscopy .
This is when a small camera with a light on the end is inserted into the uterus through your cervix. This provides a detailed image of the inside of your uterus.
A woman lies down on an examination table with her feet in stirrups as a healthcare physician holds up a transducer, which is about to be inserted.
An ultrasound screen shows a video image of a uterus.
And another testing option is a transvaginal ultrasound where a wand-like device called a transducer is inserted into the vagina.
Sound waves are then bounced off internal tissue and organs to provide a video image of your uterus. Doctors will analyze this image to look for abnormalities in your uterine lining.
What happens if you have endometrial cancer?
As VO talks, list out each one:
If a test detects endometrial cancer, you will be referred to a specialist who will further evaluate your condition and assign a stage to the disease.
Stage 1 means the cancer is localized to your uterus.
Stage 2 means the cancer has spread to the cervix.
In stage 3, the cancer has spread outside of the uterus to close locations. It may have also spread to nearby lymph nodes, the ovaries and the vagina.
Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to your bladder, rectum or other organs that are further away from your uterus.
A healthcare physician reads off a list of treatment options from a clipboard.
A healthcare provider and a woman make a plan together. They are both smiling and feel encouraged. The woman leaves the office with a smile on her face.
The good news is that endometrial cancer may be more treatable when found early. There are treatment options available for all stages of the disease including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy.
Your healthcare provider will explain your treatment options based upon the stage of your cancer, and you’ll move forward from there.
For more information, please visit HealthyWomen.org
This resource was created with support from Merck.