Endometrial cancer (also called uterine cancer) develops in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. It is the most common gynecological cancer. More than 46,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with endometrial cancer this year. Most are post-menopausal.
Fortunately, unlike other gynecological cancers, endometrial cancer is not a silent disease. Clear symptoms usually lead to early diagnosis, and an excellent chance for a cure.
In a series of videos that starts with the one below, Dr. Pam Paley describes how endometrial cancer is diagnosed, staged, and treated and the benefits of robotic surgery.
The biggest early warning sign for endometrial cancer is abnormal bleeding. Pain in the pelvic area is another warning sign.
Methods of diagnosing endometrial cancer include:
- A biopsy performed in the doctor's office
- An ultrasound screening
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) which removes part of the lining of the uterus
If cancer is suspected, confirming the diagnosis and staging the cancer is the next step.
Staging determines how much cancer is present and if it has spread to other parts of the body. This process is critical for deciding what further treatment a woman may need.
Staging involves establishing:
- The exact type of endometrial cancer
- How aggressive it is
- If it has spread, how much and where
Endometrial cancer is staged surgically. The surgeon performs a hysterectomy, removing the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Most women are candidates for robotic hysterectomy, which helps them recover from surgery much quicker.
But staging endometrial cancer goes beyond a hysterectomy. Surgeons also explore the abdomen and perform various tests and remove lymph nodes as needed to make sure all the cancer is found.
About 75 percent of women who undergo surgical staging are found to have Stage 1 cancer. In these cases, the hysterectomy removes all of the cancer and no further treatment is usually necessary.
Before the advancement of robotic surgery, these procedures were typically done as "open" procedures with a long incision down the center of the abdomen.
Today at Swedish, nearly 100 percent of endometrial cancers are staged by a surgeon operating with the daVinci robot system. Surgeons operating robotically make small incisions in the abdomen and insert a tiny camera and instruments through them.
The many advantages of robotic surgery over open surgery include:
- Significantly less bleeding during surgery
- A shorter stay in the hospital (24 hours compared to three or four days)
- A faster recovery (two weeks compared to six weeks or more.)
The Swedish Cancer Institute is a regional cancer referral center. We treat more women with endometrial cancer than any other center in the region.
The Cancer Institute offers a full spectrum of care and services, from promising new treatments in clinical trials to integrated services that include counseling and complementary therapies.