Symptoms of uterine cancer include abnormal uterine bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain. While these symptoms can have other causes, it’s important to see a doctor if you develop them.

Uterine cancer begins in the uterus, also called the womb. Most diagnoses of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer, with less than 10% being uterine sarcoma.

Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer. Researchers estimate there will be 67,880 new diagnoses of uterine cancer in the United States in 2024.

Because of this, it’s important to know the potential signs and symptoms of uterine cancer.

This article reviews the common initial symptoms, less common symptoms, and later symptoms of uterine cancer.

The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal uterine bleeding.

This is often bleeding after menopause, as most people receive a diagnosis of uterine cancer between ages 55 and 64 years. (Menopause typically begins in the early 50s.)

Research suggests postmenopausal bleeding happens in about 90% of endometrial cancers.

However, there are also other types of abnormal uterine bleeding, such as:

Abnormal uterine bleeding is also one of the earliest symptoms of uterine cancer. Many uterine cancers, about 67%, are diagnosed while they’re only in the uterus, often due to the presence of abnormal uterine bleeding.

Other potential causes of abnormal uterine bleeding

Abnormal uterine bleeding can also have many other potential causes besides uterine cancer. These include:

It’s very important to talk with a doctor if you have abnormal uterine bleeding, especially if you’ve already gone through menopause. They can help you find out what’s causing it and recommend appropriate treatment.

A slightly less common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal discharge. One 2016 study reports that roughly half of people with endometrial cancer reported abnormal vaginal discharge before their diagnosis.

If you still have periods, your vaginal discharge can vary in quantity, consistency, and color depending on where you are in your cycle.

However, abnormal vaginal discharge is when there are notable changes in your discharge, such as in its:

Other potential causes of abnormal vaginal discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge often occurs due to other more common conditions, like:

However, it’s still important to have any abnormal vaginal discharge checked out by a doctor.

Several different symptoms may occur later in uterine cancer. These can happen when the cancer has spread into surrounding tissues or distantly in the body (metastasis).

Some potential later symptoms of uterine cancer include:

Some of the most common areas for uterine cancer to metastasize include the lungs, liver, and bones. When this happens, it may lead to symptoms like:

Many factors can affect your outlook with uterine cancer. These include:

  • the specific type of uterine cancer
  • the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis
  • the grade of the cancer, which assesses how likely the cancer is to grow and spread quickly
  • the size of the tumor
  • the type of treatment you receive and how the cancer responds to it
  • whether the cancer has come back after treatment
  • your age and overall health

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, the 5-year relative survival rates for uterine cancer diagnosed between 2014 and 2020 were:

  • 94.8% when uterine cancer is only in the uterus
  • 69.7% when uterine cancer has spread into surrounding tissues and lymph nodes
  • 18.9% when uterine cancer has metastasized
  • 80.8% overall

A 5-year relative survival rate is a statistic that describes the percentage of people with a certain type and stage of cancer who are alive 5 years after their diagnosis compared with people without the disease.

Because they include data from lots of people with uterine cancer over a long span of time, 5-year relative survival rates don’t account for individual factors like age and overall health, or for more recent advances in treatment.

Abnormal uterine bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer. This is often postmenopausal bleeding, but it can also be bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, or periods that are heavier, longer, or more irregular.

Another less common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal discharge. Later symptoms of uterine cancer may include pelvic pain, bloating, or unexplained weight loss.

The symptoms of uterine cancer more often occur from other noncancerous conditions.

However, it’s still important to discuss any concerning symptoms with a doctor. Even if your symptoms are not due to uterine cancer, they could be a sign of another medical condition that needs to be addressed.