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Cancer of the Uterus

What is cancer of the uterus?

Cancer of the uterus (uterine or endometrial cancer) is a growth of abnormal cells that form tumors in the lining of the uterus. It is the most common type of cancer in the uterus. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still uterine cancer, and is called metastatic uterine cancer.

There are different types and stages of uterine cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing the type and stage of uterine cancer you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat uterine cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

The cause of uterine cancer is not known. It is one of the most common cancers among women. Most often, it occurs in women between the ages of 50 and 70. You are at greatest risk if your body produces a lot of the hormone estrogen without enough of the hormone progesterone and you have gone through menopause.

What can I expect in the hospital?

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:

Monitoring

  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.

Testing

You may need tests to confirm your cancer diagnosis. Other tests may be done to check to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Testing may include:

  • Pelvic exam: Your healthcare provider will gently put a small tool called a speculum into your vagina to hold the vaginal walls open during the exam. Your provider will look at the surface of the cervix and check for irritation, infection, or growths in your vagina. Your provider will also insert his or her fingers into your vagina, and press on your lower belly to examine you.
  • Endometrial biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue endometrium (lining of the uterus) for testing.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): A procedure in which your cervix is widened (dilated) and a sharp tool called a curette is used to scrape the walls of the uterus and collect tissue for testing.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin sections of the uterus and other areas where the cancer may have spread
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin sections of the uterus and other areas where the cancer may have spread
  • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
  • X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest and bones to check for cancer
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.

Treatment

The treatment for uterine cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Treatment may include:

  • You will have a needle inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • You may need surgery to treat the cancer. Surgery may include:
    • Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus the cervix, and possibly part of the vagina. In some cases the fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed.
    • Lymph node dissection: Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the pelvic area (below the belly and between the hips) to check if the cancer has spread. It also allows the pathologist to determine the stage of the cancer. This will allow your healthcare providers to determine if you need more treatment after you recover from surgery.
  • Treatments may include:
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment.
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Block the hormones that allow uterine cancer to grow
    • Help relieve symptoms of menopause if your ovaries were removed

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding, soaking a pad more than every hour
    • Trouble emptying your bladder
    • Vaginal discharge with a bad odor or itching
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
  • Ask questions about any medicine or treatment or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many things, such as your general health, why you are in the hospital, and the treatment you need. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with uterine cancer is 3 to 4 days. Talk with your provider about how long your stay may be.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-22
Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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