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There are two main types of uterine cancer: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer is the most diagnosed gynaecological cancer. Uterine sarcoma is a much rarer cancer. Learn more about these cancers, the symptoms, causes and how they are diagnosed.

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Cancer of the uterus – endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer occurs in the lining of the uterus. It is the most diagnosed gynaecological cancer, mostly in people over the aged over 50 who have a uterus. It’s also the most common uterine cancer.

The below picture shows the female reproductive organs.

Cancer of the uterus – uterine sarcoma

Uterine sarcoma is a rare uterine cancer that forms in either the muscle of the uterus or the cells in the lining of the uterus. It occurs in about 2% to 5% of all uterine tumours and less than 1% of all gynaecological cancers. It’s more likely to occur after menopause.

Symptoms and diagnosis of uterine sarcoma are similar to those of endometrial cancer.

If the uterine sarcoma is confined to the uterus, it is usually treated with surgery.


The most common symptom of uterine cancer (including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma) is unusual bleeding, particularly bleeding after menopause.

Other common symptoms may include:

  • periods that are heavier than usual, or a change to your periods
  • bleeding in between periods
  • periods that continue without a break.

Less common symptoms may include:

  • watery, smelly discharge
  • unexplained weight loss
  • discomfort or pain in your belly
  • pain during sex
  • difficulty weeing.

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. They may be due to other conditions, but it’s important to check.


We don’t know the exact cause of uterine cancer, but it may be associated with:

  • family history of ovarian, uterine or bowel cancer
  • having a genetic condition such as Lynch syndrome or Cowden syndrome
  • having a thickened uterine wall lining (endometrial hyperplasia).

Some women who develop uterine cancer don’t have any risk factors. But risk factors can include:

  • using oestrogen-only menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) or fertility treatment
  • previous radiotherapy in the pelvic area
  • the use of tamoxifen medicine
  • having high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes
  • being overweight or obese.


Like many cancers, early diagnosis and detection lead to the best treatment outcomes.

As there is no known way to screen for uterine cancer, it’s important to see your doctor if you notice any symptoms.

Uterine cancer is usually diagnosed via a clinical examination. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history and family health history.

They may do some physical examinations to check your:

  • vulva, vagina and cervix
  • uterus and pelvis.

You may also need to have blood and urine (wee) tests.

If your examination and test results suggest you may have uterine cancer, your doctor will refer you to a gynaecological oncologist (a specialist in gynaecological cancers) straight away.

You may need more tests to diagnose uterine cancer. For example:

  • a transvaginal ultrasound (internal ultrasound via the vagina) – to look at your ovaries, uterus and endometrium
  • an endometrial biopsy – a sample of cells is taken from your endometrium and tested in a laboratory
  • hysteroscopy and biopsy (via the vagina) – to see inside your uterus and take a small sample of tissue from the endometrial lining
  • other imaging tests (e.g. computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans) – to check if cancer has spread outside your uterus.


Treatment for uterine cancer depends on the extent of the cancer. It may include:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • hormone therapy (usually in advanced stages)
  • chemotherapy
  • palliative treatment.

Cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can cause menopause. Learn more about menopause due to cancer treatment.

When to see your doctor

It’s important to see your doctor if you notice any symptoms of uterine cancer. In most cases, early detection and diagnosis lead to good outcomes.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at April 2023.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Cancer Australia, Endometrial cancer
Bužinskienė D, Mikėnas S, Drąsutienė G, Mongirdas M. Uterine sarcoma: a clinical case and a literature review. Acta Med Litu. 2018;25(4):206-218. doi:10.6001/actamedica.v25i4.3931
Risk Factors for Endometrial Cancer - A review of the evidence 2019 | Cancer Australia. Published September 12, 2019. Accessed May 15, 2023
Last updated: 
07 December 2023
Last reviewed: 
14 April 2023

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