“Uterine cancer” is an umbrella term that covers two types of cancer: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Both types begin in the uterus.

Endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma are different types of uterine cancer. They share similar symptoms but have different places of origin and outlook.

Endometrial cancer starts in the inner lining of the uterus. Uterine sarcomas originate in the muscular middle layer of the uterus.

This article reviews both types of uterine cancer, including the subtypes, symptoms, and outlook for each.

How common is endometrial cancer vs. uterine sarcoma?

The American Cancer Society estimates that 67,880 new diagnoses of uterine cancer will be made in the United States in 2024.

Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer that affects the female reproductive tract, making up most diagnoses of uterine cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, up to 10% of uterine cancers are uterine sarcomas.

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Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer that begins in the inner lining of the uterus. This inner lining is called the endometrium.

The endometrium thickens during the menstrual cycle in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. The endometrium is shed during menstruation if a fertilized egg doesn’t implant.

Types of endometrial cancer

There are several kinds of endometrial cancer. The most common kind is called endometrioid adenocarcinoma. Other kinds of endometrial cancer include:

  • carcinosarcoma
  • clear cell carcinoma
  • serous carcinoma
  • small cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • undifferentiated carcinoma

Endometrial cancer can also be divided into two grades. Grade is a measure of how abnormal cancer cells look under a microscope. High grade cancers are more likely to be aggressive.

The two grades of endometrial cancer are:

  • Type 1: Type 1 cancers are less aggressive and tend to have a better outlook. They’re typically made up of grade 1 and 2 endometrioid adenocarcinomas. Experts believe high estrogen levels cause them.
  • Type 2: Type 2 cancers are high grade and more likely to grow and spread quickly. They’re made up of grade 3 endometrioid adenocarcinomas and other kinds of endometrial cancer, like carcinosarcoma or serous carcinoma.

Symptoms of endometrial cancer

Abnormal uterine bleeding is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer. This can include:

Other symptoms of endometrial cancer are:

Outlook for people with endometrial cancer

The outlook for people with endometrial cancer is best when it’s diagnosed and treated early.

Most uterine cancers, including endometrial cancer, are diagnosed while they’re still in the early stages. Because of this, the outlook for people with this type of cancer is generally good.

However, in addition to the cancer’s stage, several other things can affect one’s outlook. These can include:

  • the specific kind of cancer you have
  • the grade of the cancer
  • the type of treatment used and how the cancer responds to it
  • your age and overall health

The table below shows the 5-year relative survival rates for endometrial cancer between 2013 and 2019 using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database from the National Cancer Institute:

SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
Localized to the endometrium95%
Regional spread70%
Distant spread (metastasis)18%
Overall81%

A note on 5-year relative survival rates

A relative survival rate gives you an idea of how long someone with a specific condition may live after their diagnosis compared with someone without the condition.

For example, a 5-year relative survival rate of 81% means someone with that condition is 81% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

It’s important to remember that these figures are estimates. They do not take into account individual factors like your age and overall health. They also don’t account for recent advances in diagnosis or treatment.

Always discuss your individual outlook with your doctor.

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Uterine sarcoma is a type of uterine cancer that affects the muscular middle layer of the uterus. This layer is called the myometrium. It expands during pregnancy and contracts to help push the baby out during labor.

It’s also possible for uterine sarcomas to form in the tissues that help support the uterus.

Types of uterine sarcoma

There are several types of uterine sarcoma. The most common type is called uterine leiomyosarcoma. This type of uterine sarcoma is typically aggressive.

Other types of uterine sarcomas include:

  • adenosarcoma
  • endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS), which is further divided into low and high grade types
  • undifferentiated sarcoma

Low grade ESS and adenosarcoma tend to grow more slowly and have a better outlook. Meanwhile, high grade ESS and undifferentiated sarcoma tend to be more aggressive.

Symptoms of uterine sarcoma

Many symptoms of uterine sarcoma are similar to those of endometrial cancer. They are:

  • abnormal uterine bleeding, such as:
    • bleeding after menopause
    • bleeding between periods
    • periods that are heavier or more irregular than is typical for you
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • pain in your abdomen or pelvis
  • a feeling of fullness in your pelvis or a mass that you can feel
  • changes in bowel or bladder habits, like constipation and frequent urination

Outlook for people with uterine sarcoma

The outlook for people with uterine sarcoma can depend on factors like:

  • the specific kind of uterine sarcoma you have
  • the stage and grade of the cancer
  • the size of the tumor
  • the type of treatment used and how the cancer responds to it
  • your age and overall health

The table below shows the 5-year relative survival rates for three types of uterine sarcoma between 2012 and 2018:

SEER stageLeiomyosarcomaLow grade ESSUndifferentiated sarcoma
Localized to uterus60%over 99.5%71%
Regional spread37%94%37%
Distant spread (metastasis)12%80%18%
Overall38%96%43%

Uterine cancer is cancer that starts in the uterus. Endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma are two types of uterine cancer. Each of these cancers can be further divided into different subtypes.

Endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma have similar symptoms. The most common is abnormal uterine bleeding. Other symptoms can include abnormal vaginal discharge, abdominal or pelvic pain, and changes in bowel or bladder habits.

The outlook for people with these cancers depends on things like cancer type, its stage and grade, and a person’s age and overall health.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of uterine cancer, your healthcare team can give you a better idea of your individual outlook.