Hysteroscopy is a procedure that can help diagnose uterine cancer. It uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light on the end to help a doctor see inside your uterus. Biopsy samples can be collected during this procedure, if necessary.

A hysteroscopy is a test that’s used to gather images of the inside of your uterus. It can help diagnose the cause of certain symptoms, such as abnormal uterine bleeding.

A common health condition like fibroids or polyps can often cause abnormal uterine bleeding. But it can also be a symptom of uterine cancer, the most common cancer affecting female reproductive organs.

Here, we’ll explore more about hysteroscopy and how it’s used to diagnose uterine cancer.

A hysteroscopy uses a hysteroscope, a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera on the end. The hysteroscope is inserted into your vagina and carefully passed through your cervix and into your uterus.

A saline solution or gas is then put through the hysteroscope to help expand your uterus. This helps the doctor to see the inside of your uterus better.

The camera on the end of the hysteroscope collects images of the inside of your uterus that the doctor can view on a screen. If a suspicious area is found, a biopsy can be taken using tools passed through the hysteroscope.

Many times, a hysteroscopy is done while you’re awake using local anesthetic. You may feel some pressure or mild discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful. In some situations, regional or general anesthetic may also be used.

While hysteroscopy is a very safe procedure, there are some risks to be aware of. These include:

  • your cervix or uterus being punctured during the procedure
  • too much fluid being used during the procedure
  • developing an infection afterward

A hysteroscopy can be a part of the uterine cancer diagnostic process. It may be used if you’re having symptoms of uterine cancer like abnormal uterine bleeding. Abnormal uterine bleeding includes bleeding that:

Roughly 80% of uterine cancers are endometrial cancer, which begins in the inner lining of your uterus. Because hysteroscopy allows a doctor to view this inner lining as well as collect biopsy samples, it’s a valuable tool in the diagnosis of this type of cancer.

A 2020 review notes that the fact that hysteroscopy allows for direct visualization and sampling of lesions in your uterine lining gives it an advantage over other procedures for uterine cancer diagnosis, such as dilation and curettage (D and C).

D and C involves dilating your cervix and using a special tool to remove a sample of your uterine lining. But D and C is often a blind sampling technique, meaning that a random sample of tissue is being removed.

Because hysteroscopy allows for a directed biopsy to be taken, it’s generally considered to be more accurate for diagnosing cancer.

Can hysteroscopy be used to treat uterine cancer?

The standard treatment of uterine cancer typically involves surgery to remove your uterus (hysterectomy) as well as your fallopian tubes and ovaries (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy).

In some situations, a hysteroscopy may be used to remove cancer from the uterus in individuals who have cancer that’s only in their uterus (stage 1) and that’s less aggressive (low grade).

This may be done in people who want to preserve their fertility or in those who can’t or choose not to have surgery and also often involves the use of hormone therapy.

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Hysteroscopy isn’t the only diagnostic tool for uterine cancer. To help diagnose uterine cancer, a doctor will first get a thorough personal and family medical history from you. They’ll also do a physical exam that includes a pelvic exam.

An ultrasound is also done as a less invasive way to collect images of your uterus. Ultrasounds may be transvaginal or pelvic.

Analysis of a biopsy sample is needed to confirm a diagnosis of uterine cancer. A doctor may collect this sample using several methods:

  • endometrial biopsy, which uses a thin tube to suction a tissue sample from the inner lining of your uterus
  • hysteroscopy
  • D and C

The tissue sample is tested in a lab to look for cancer. If cancer is found, more tests can be done on it to help determine other characteristics of the cancer, such as its type, grade, and whether certain genetic changes are present.

Following a uterine cancer diagnosis, imaging tests can be done to see how far the cancer has spread in order to determine its stage. These tests can include:

A doctor may order a hysteroscopy if you’re having symptoms of uterine cancer, such as abnormal uterine bleeding. During a hysteroscopy, a doctor can see the inside of your uterus and collect biopsy samples, if necessary.

Hysteroscopy is just one piece of the diagnostic process for uterine cancer. You’ll typically have at least a physical exam and an ultrasound before your hysteroscopy.

Abnormal uterine bleeding can be caused by common benign conditions like fibroids or polyps. But because it’s also a symptom of uterine cancer, it’s important to have any abnormal uterine bleeding checked out by a doctor.