Uterine clear cell cancer is a rare and aggressive type of endometrial cancer with a generally unfavorable outlook. Treatment involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Uterine cancers start in the uterus (womb). Most diagnoses of uterine cancer affect the endometrium, which is the inner lining of the uterus.
This article provides details on clear cell cancer, including its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
Endometrial cancers are divided into two types:
- Type 1 endometrial cancers are not typically aggressive and are linked to an increased exposure to estrogen.
- Type 2 endometrial cancers are less common than type 1 endometrial cancers and are not associated with estrogen levels. However, these cancers are much more aggressive.
CCC is a type 2 endometrial cancer. This means it’s more likely to grow and spread quickly and has a less favorable outlook.
As with other types of uterine cancer, the most common symptom of uterine CCC is abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge. This typically occurs after menopause but can also include bleeding between periods or irregular periods.
Other potential symptoms of uterine cancer in general
Uterine cancers such as CCC happen when cells in the uterus start to grow and divide out of control. This results from genetic changes that affect cell growth and division.
Genetic changes can be either inherited or acquired. Therefore, you may be at an increased risk of uterine cancer if it runs in your family. Certain genetic syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome, can also increase your risk of uterine cancer.
- being older than 50
- having obesity
- taking estrogen (without progesterone) during menopause
- having had difficulty getting pregnant
- taking tamoxifen (Soltamox), a medication used to prevent and treat certain types of breast cancer
- having a genetic mutation that raises your risk (such as
BRCA 1 or BRCA 2)
If a doctor suspects that you have uterine cancer, they’ll order a transvaginal ultrasound. This helps them visualize your uterus and the surrounding tissues, such as your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder.
Analysis of an endometrial tissue sample is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of uterine CCC. Healthcare professionals usually collect this sample using one of the following methods:
If these methods detect cancer, further tests can help characterize it. To help determine how far the cancer has spread, your doctor may order imaging tests such as:
Because uterine CCC is a more aggressive cancer type, it’s
- uterus (a hysterectomy)
- fallopian tubes and ovaries (a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy)
- omentum (an omentectomy)
- surrounding lymph nodes
Sometimes, doctors do not perform surgery for CCC. This can happen if the cancer has spread to more distant tissues (metastasized) or if you choose not to have surgery. In these situations, you may receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both.
Immunotherapies with chemotherapy
In a 2023 study, researchers found that adding the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) to chemotherapy improved overall survival. And another
Targeted therapies may be used for high risk or advanced uterine cancer. For example, a
Uterine CCC is more aggressive than other more common types of endometrial cancer. Therefore, it’s associated with a less favorable outcome.
- older age at diagnosis
- deep invasion into the muscle layer of the uterus
- more advanced stage at diagnosis, which can include spread to:
- surrounding blood and lymphatic vessels
- other tissues of the female reproductive system
Uterine CCC can also come back after treatment. This is called recurrence. In a
Uterine CCC is a rare type of cancer that can affect the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. It’s more aggressive than more common types of endometrial cancer, growing and spreading more quickly.
Many times, uterine CCC is diagnosed when it has already spread outside of the uterus. Treatment typically involves some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
The outlook for uterine CCC is generally unfavorable. However, this can depend on many factors, such as the cancer stage, the cancer’s response to treatment, and your age and overall health. Be sure to ask your oncology team about your individual outlook.