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Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in women in the United States and affects more than 60,000 women annually. Our multidisciplinary women's cancer team at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center works together to provide compassionate and tailored care for women facing a diagnosis of uterine cancer. We have years of experience in providing the best surgical and medical care for patients with all states of uterine cancer. Since not all uterine cancers are the same, we can assist you and your family to better understand your diagnosis and treatment options.
Most women with uterine cancer will require surgery and our gynecologic oncologists are experts in minimally invasive, robot-assisted or open surgery, which includes hysterectomy, lymph node dissection and other tumor staging procedures. Our team has expertise in performing safe and successful minimally invasive surgery for women who are overweight and obese or those with other complex medical conditions. Our surgeons also offer sentinel lymph node dissection using the latest robotic technology to minimize surgical side effects. In addition, for advanced uterine cancer, we offer radical surgery and debulking (removing as much of the tumor as possible) for select patients as part of their treatment plan.
Our radiation oncologists use the latest technologies, including specialized radiation treatment, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), to fully target the tumor area while better sparing normal nearby tissue. This greatly reduces the side effects experienced by patients receiving radiation for uterine cancer.
In addition to the most common type of uterine cancer — endometrioid adenocarcinoma — we have expertise in the management of early and advanced stage high risk endometrial cancer and sarcomas including:
Most uterine cancers begin in the lining of the uterus (womb) called the endometrium (endometrial cancers). Rare uterine cancers that arise in the muscle wall of the uterus are called uterine sarcomas. Many women diagnosed with early stage uterine cancer are treated with surgery alone and cured. Other women with higher risk disease or more advanced stages will require surgery in addition to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Risk factors for uterine cancer include:
Obesity is an important risk factor for uterine and endometrial cancer that can be modified. Extra stored fat in a body increases estrogen levels, causes inflammation and can promote cancer development. Most common uterine cancers are estrogen dependent. Women who are 50 pounds overweight are 10 times more likely to get uterine and endometrial cancer. Managing weight through appropriate diet and increasing physical activity can potentially decrease risk for this cancer.
Signs and symptoms of uterine and endometrial cancer may include:
Uterine cancer is most commonly diagnosed with an endometrial biopsy or D&C (dilatation and curettage), which allows us to test a sample of the endometrial lining. The Pap smear only rarely detects uterine cancer; most women with this cancer have had normal Pap smears. A sample of endometrial tissue must be removed using one of these procedures, and then checked under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
The doctor will use a physical exam and history of the patient's health habits, past illnesses and treatments to help diagnose uterine cancer. He or she may do a transvaginal ultrasound exam, where an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina and used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs. The resulting echoes form a picture of body tissues (a sonogram), which helps to evaluate uterine size and the thickness of the endometrium.
Treatment options depend on the type and stage of the cancer. Our women's cancer team will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include a combination of these options:
Like most cancers, uterine cancer is more difficult to treat after it has spread to distant parts of the body (metastasized), which is rare. Our gynecologic cancer team treats each patient as a unique case and will help find the best treatment for you.
UChicago Medicine researchers are continuously testing new drugs that may be more effective in treating uterine cancer than currently available options. We also have performed many clinical trials combining chemotherapy with radiotherapy with the goal of improving survival for women fighting this disease. Learn more about our uterine cancer clinical trials.
We are designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute — one of only two in Illinois. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UChicago Medicine's cancer program among the top in the United States. Several of our faculty are recognized annually by Chicago magazine as Top Cancer Doctors.
Our team includes highly trained specialists with deep expertise in all aspects of women’s cancer care, including the treatment of uterine cancer. They offer a broad range of treatments and areas of care, often partnering with other experts to fully address the needs and concerns of our patients.
Our women's cancer specialists work closely with a multidisciplinary group of professionals including medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, physician assistants and nurses to create a treatment plan for even the most complex cases. Because communication among these specialists is vital, the entire team meets weekly at a multidisciplinary tumor board to share information and insights — leading to the most effective, and often groundbreaking, treatments for our patients.
UChicago Medicine's Comprehensive Cancer Center is a leader in the research and treatment of gynecological cancers, including uterine cancer. Our team is engaged in diverse areas of research including novel chemotherapy clinical trials, high-risk uterine cancer treatment and surveillance, healthy lifestyle changes such as weight loss and survivorship.