You’ve just been told, “You have uterine cancer.” That’s scary to hear. However, knowledge is powerful and can help make a difference in how you handle your experience with cancer.
Every woman who has recently been told she has uterine cancer has questions--many of them are likely to be the same as yours: What is uterine cancer? Will I survive? Was my diagnosis correct? What are my treatment choices? How do I select the best doctor? Getting answers to these questions can help ease your fears.
We’re here to help. Our goal is to give you the information you need so that you can work with your healthcare team to make the best choices about your treatment. Our goal is to help you face cancer with confidence.
The first step is to learn more about uterine cancer and your diagnosis.
Let’s start by describing what cancer is. Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow and multiply when the body needs them. They die out when they are no longer needed. This is how balance is maintained. However, some cells go through a series of changes, called mutations. The “switch” that tells the cells to die is turned off. These cells become cancerous. Cancerous cells are called malignant cells. Cancer occurs when cells multiply all the time and don’t die off, whether they are needed or not. In most cancers, the malignant cells grow and form a lump called a tumor.
Cancer can develop in the uterus, which is also called the womb. The uterus is a pear-shaped organ. Its inner lining is called the endometrium. This lining thickens in response to hormone changes during the month and then sheds during menstruation--your period. Your uterus also holds the developing fetus when you’re pregnant. Cancer in the uterus may begin to form in these 2 places.
Endometrial carcinoma, or more simply, endometrial cancer, begins to grow in the inner lining. This is the most common form of uterine cancer.
Uterine sarcoma begins to grow in the wall of the uterus. This type of cancer is much less common.
Each of these types is discussed in its own section. When we use the term uterine cancer, we mean either type of cancer in the uterus. We’ll use the terms endometrial cancer or uterine sarcoma when the information is specific to one of those cancers.