Uterine cancer may not exhibit any symptoms in the early stages. So, if you do develop symptoms like pelvic pain, abnormal uterine bleeding, or unexplained weight loss, see your doctor right away for a diagnosis.

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Uterine cancer is the most common type of cancer that affects the female reproductive system, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI forecasts that about 66,200 people will be diagnosed with uterine cancer in the United States in 2023.

Because there’s no effective early screening test for uterine cancer, it’s not always detected early. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of advanced uterine cancer.

There are technically two different kinds of uterine cancer: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer is cancer that develops in the inner lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. By contrast, uterine sarcoma develops in the muscular wall of the uterus, which is called the myometrium.

However, uterine sarcoma is very rare. Only about 10% of uterine cancers are uterine sarcomas. When most people talk about uterine cancer, they’re probably referring to endometrial cancer. Uterine cancer is considered advanced when it spreads beyond the uterus into surrounding tissues and organs in the abdomen.

Because there’s no screening test for uterine cancer like the Pap test used to screen for cervical cancer, it’s important to become familiar with the symptoms. You may not experience any symptoms in the earliest stage.

Notice any warning signs that do develop, however. If you do begin to have symptoms that could be symptoms of uterine cancer, contact your doctor immediately.

Prompt treatment may help mitigate some of the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Here are the most common symptoms of uterine cancers:

Abnormal uterine bleeding

The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal uterine bleeding, which can occur during the early stages or later stages.

So, what should you look for? Before or during menopause, you may experience irregular menstrual bleeding, heavier-than-usual bleeding, bleeding in between menstrual periods, or spotting. After menopause, any bleeding or spotting would be considered abnormal uterine bleeding, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Pelvic pain

If you begin to experience pain or pressure in your pelvis that you’ve never experienced before, don’t ignore it.

Pelvic pain is a symptom of uterine cancer. And persistent pain in your lower abdomen or cramping could be a sign of uterine cancer that has spread. In fact, the American Cancer Society notes that pelvic pain is more common in the later stages of the disease.

Unintentional weight loss

You might be surprised but not overly concerned if you lose a few pounds without even trying. But unexplained weight loss might be cause for concern. This is another symptom that’s common in the later stages of the disease.

If the cancer has spread from your uterus to other parts of your abdomen, it could be pushing up against your stomach. You may feel bloated or start to feel full very quickly after you start eating. However, advanced cancer can also trigger inflammation in the body that can lead to loss of muscle and fat.

Exercise and nutrition counseling may help. Research into drugs that may be able to address the problem is ongoing.

Weakness and pain in the lower abdomen, back, or legs

Another possible symptom of uterine cancer that has spread is weakness and pain in the lower abdomen — and possibly even the lower back and legs. It may come and go, or it may be more persistent. It might be a sharp pain, or it may be more a feeling of weakness or just overall discomfort.

Other possible symptoms

It’s possible that you might experience other symptoms, too. This might include:

If you have symptoms that could be symptoms of uterine cancer, your doctor may begin with a test to help diagnose (or rule out) the presence of cancerous cells.

These tests may include a transvaginal ultrasound to look at the thickness of the uterine lining and the size of the uterus.

The next step may be an endometrial biopsy to take a sample of the endometrium for examination. Another possible way to get an endometrial sample is a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.

Currently, the 5-year survival rate for uterine cancer is 81%. As with many other cancers, early detection and prompt treatment are key to ensuring better outcomes, including a longer life.

The National Cancer Institute predicts that about 13,030 people will die from uterine cancer in 2023, which would represent about 2.1% of all cancer deaths.

What are the risk factors for uterine cancer?

There are a number of factors that may increase your risk, according to the NCI. These include increasing age, a history of endometrial hyperplasia, tamoxifen use, a diet that’s high in animal fat, early menstruation, late menopause, and a family history of health conditions like Lynch syndrome.

Obesity, ovarian diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and type 2 diabetes may also play a role.

What can I do to lower my risk of developing uterine cancer?

There’s no one surefire way to reduce your risk of developing uterine cancer. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that using birth control pills and maintaining a healthy weight, which includes regular physical activity may help. If you take estrogen, it may also help to take progesterone.

How is advanced uterine cancer usually treated?

If you have stage 3 or stage 4 endometrial cancer, your doctor will probably recommend a hysterectomy, which is surgery to remove your uterus, plus removal of the lymph nodes in the pelvis. That will be followed by chemotherapy and perhaps also radiation therapy.

If you’re not a candidate for surgery, you may be able to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Targeted therapy may also be an option for some people with advanced uterine therapy.

Surgery, chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy are used to treat uterine sarcomas, too. Late-stage uterine sarcomas don’t have a standard treatment regimen, according to the NCI, so a clinical trial may become the best option.

Since there’s no screening test for uterine cancer, you’ll need to pay extra close attention to your body. If you notice any of the common symptoms of uterine cancer, speak up and let your doctor know.