Uterine cancer begins in the main body of the uterus, a hollow organ about the size and shape of an upside-down pear. The uterus is where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
Approximately 1600 women are diagnosed with uterine cancer (also called endometrial cancer) each year in Australia. Due to an early warning symptom (abnormal uterine/vaginal bleeding) the vast majority of patients with uterine cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. Obesity, hypertension and older age increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Standard treatment is a full hysterectomy, removal of both fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The extent of the disease will be determined by preoperative imaging and removal of lymph nodes along the large blood vessels in the pelvis. Most patients do not require post-operative treatment. However, patients at higher risk of relapse are recommended to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of both, depending on the cell type and extent of the disease.
Outcomes are generally excellent with more than 90% of patients with stage one disease surviving the five year mark. Patients with high-risk uterine cancer (e.g. uterine papillary serous carcinoma) have a worse outcome.
Current research focuses on less invasive surgical techniques, which may lead to improved recovery from surgery with equal chances for survival. For patients with high-risk uterine cancer, cancer centres such as the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer try to find combinations of treatment (including new biological agents) to improve survival.