The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in the female pelvis. The main function of the uterus is to nourish the developing foetus before birth. The uterus has two layers: an outer muscular lining and an inner lining known as the endometrium, which thickens and sheds during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Uterine cancer or endometrial cancer, affects the inner lining of the uterus. A less common type of uterine cancer, which affects the outer muscular lining is called uterine sarcoma.
Uterine cancer is the 4th most common women’s cancer and most common female genital tract cancer in Singapore. While uterine cancer can affect women of any age, the majority of cases (70%) occurs in women above the age of 50.
If uterine cancer is discovered early and confined to the uterus, removing the womb often eliminates the cancer. The cure rate can be over 90% when the disease is detected at an early stage.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding or if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Any bleeding or spotting
after menopause is abnormal, consult a doctor if you experience this.
There are several ways to lower the risk of uterine cancer and improve early detection and diagnosis:
While the causes of uterine cancer are unknown, a high level of oestrogen has been found to play a role in its development. Other risk factors include:
Treatment for uterine cancer usually involves surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), fallopian tubes and ovaries (salpingo-oophorectomy). The surgeon may also remove lymph nodes for testing. Surgery also allows doctors to assess the extent of spread of the cancer (stage of the cancer) and decide what treatment will have the best chance for success.
The procedure can be done by minimally invasive surgery or open surgery. The surgeon will assess each patient’s condition and recommend the most suitable surgery method.
Following surgery, additional or adjuvant treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be required depending on the stage, grade and subtype of the cancer.
Chemotherapy is sometimes recommended after surgery if there is an increased risk that the cancer might return. It is sometimes used before surgery to shrink the cancer so that it is more likely to be removed completely during surgery.
Chemotherapy may also be recommended for treating advanced or recurrent uterine cancer that has spread beyond the uterus.
Radiotherapy uses powerful energy beams, to kill cancer cells. In some instances, the doctor may recommend radiation to reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence after surgery.
Brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy) is usually given for early stage disease while external beam radiotherapy is given for more advanced disease.
Hormone therapy is used to slow the growth of certain types of uterine cancer. These are generally adenocarcinomas and are grade I or II tumours. Tests may be performed to predict how the cancer responds to hormone therapy prior to starting the treatment.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug treatments work by blocking specific weaknesses present within cancer cells, causing the cancer cells to die. Targeted drug therapy is usually combined with chemotherapy for treating advanced uterine cancer.
Immunotherapy might be considered if the uterine cancer is advanced and other treatments have not helped.
At SingHealth healthcare institutions, our multi-disciplinary care team includes surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, fertility specialists, palliative-care doctors, specialist nurses, medical social workers and other allied health professionals, who work together to ensure the best outcome for every patient.