Uterine Cancer - Diagnosis
The best way to detect uterine cancer early is to be aware of the symptoms. There is no specific early detection screening or test. Although, there are several other common tests used by doctors to find abnormal growths that may be linked to uterine cancer.
If you are diagnosed with uterine cancer, be sure to checkout our, "5 Tips if Diagnosed with a Gynecologic Cancer" section, and the Uterine Cancer Treatment section of this website, to become empowered to advocate for yourself as a patient.
To give your doctor an opportunity to assess reproductive organs both visually and physically and to check for any irregularities, a pelvic exam may be performed. In order to do so, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down, put on a hospital gown, and place your feet up in stirrups on the examination table.
Throughout the pelvic exam, you should not feel pain, but you might feel a bit uncomfortable. A doctor will insert two fingers into your vagina to feel organs while pressing on your lower abdomen. Widening the opening of the vagina with a speculum will then enable the doctor to visually inspect the vagina as well as the cervix. A rectal exam? may also be performed at this time.
Early stages of uterine cancer can't be found during the pelvic exam itself. However, it can help determine the overall health of the vagina, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries and rectum.
A doctor will often order an ultrasound if the pelvic and rectal exams detect a mass or irregularity. A transvaginal ultrasound is the most common ultrasound used to obtain an image of the ovaries and lower abdomen. This test can also be used to determine the size of the uterus and the thickness of the uterine lining. It can also detect polyps (or abnormal growths) within the uterine cavity.
During this test, high-energy sound waves are emitted from a wand inside the vagina. They bounce off the tissue inside the lower abdomen. Images are then produced on the screen for the doctor to analyze. Theses images can’t determine if a mass is cancerous, but will show the doctor if there is an abnormal growth or a mass.
This test is recommended as a yearly test for people with Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer, starting at age 25, because these women are at a much greater risk for uterine cancer.
Endometrial sampling (or biopsy) is a simple procedure that can be done without anesthesia. A sampling of tissue from the endometrium (internal lining of the uterus) is taken by inserting a small tube up through the cervix. Usually by suction, the cells are then removed for analysis under the microscope.
This test is recommended as a yearly test for people with Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer, starting at age 35, because these women are at a much greater risk for uterine cancer.
Dilation and Curettage (D & C) is an outpatient procedure that takes place in an operating room under anesthesia. If the endometrial sampling was inconclusive, if not enough tissue could be obtained, or if the cervix (lower portion of the uterus) is scarred, a D & C is often performed.
A special instrument is inserted into the uterus through the cervix, whereby the uterine wall is gently scraped. The tissue then is sent for microscopic evaluation. Sometimes a microscope (called a hysteroscope) is also used to look directly at the uterine lining and to ensure that the correct tissue is biopsied
If there has been a diagnosis of uterine cancer, your doctor may order additional image tests just to make sure that any cancer hasn’t spread. It is not absolutely necessary that any of these tests are performed.
The tests that physicians use to discern how far along any cancer has progressed normally include the following:
-MRI - provides detailed imagery of body structure
-CT Scan - used to create in-depth images of internal organs
-PET - by using radioactive glucose, helps physicians effectively pinpoint potential cancer sources
The stages of uterine cancer are determined by performing a surgical procedure. Uterine cancers fall into stages that define the severity of the disease. Stage 1 is the least severe. Stage 4 is the most severe. The stages are described as listed below.
Stage 1 - Cancer has been found in the uterus, and has not yet spread to other parts of the body
Stage 2 - The cancer is in the uterus and the cervix, but has not spread to the other areas in the pelvis
Stage 3 - The cancer has spread to other places in the pelvic area (usually the lymph nodes). But, the uterine cancer has not reached the rectum or bladder.
Stage 4 - The cancer has spread beyond the pelvic area and has spread into other organs, such as the rectum or bladderLast Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 12:46