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What is cancer of the uterus?

Cancer of the uterus occurs when cells in any part of the uterus become abnormal, grow out of control and form a lump called a tumour. Cancer of the uterus can be either endometrial cancer or the less common uterine sarcoma.

Types of cancer of the uterus

Endometrial cancers (around 95% of all uterine cancers)

Cancers that begin in cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) are called endometrial cancers. There are two main types:

type 1 cancers (linked to an excess of oestrogen)type 1 cancers are the most common endometrial cancers and are usually called endometrioid cancers; most are adenocarcinomas, which start in glandular cells; usually grow slowly and are less likely to spread.
type 2 cancers (not linked to oestrogen)type 2 cancers are much less common; include uterine carcinosarcomas (also known as malignant mixed Müllerian tumours), serous carcinomas and clear cell carcinomas; grow faster and are more likely to spread.

Uterine sarcomas (around 5% of all uterine cancers)

These are rare soft tissue sarcomas that develop in the cells in the muscle of the uterus (myometrium) or the connective tissue (stroma) that supports the endometrium. There are three types:

  • endometrial stromal sarcoma – mostly low-grade, slow-growing tumours
  • leiomyosarcoma – faster-growing and more likely to spread
  • undifferentiated sarcoma – faster-growing and more likely to spread.

See Soft Tissue Sarcoma for more information.

How common is it?

Each year, about 3200 Australian women are diagnosed with uterine cancer, and most are over 50. Uterine cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women and the most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australia. (Cancers that affect the female reproductive system are known as gynaecological cancers.)

The number of women diagnosed with uterine cancer has increased in recent years, and includes younger women. This increase is likely to be due to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

Anyone with a uterus can get uterine cancer – women, transgender men and intersex people. For information specific to your situation, speak to your doctor.

Featured resources

Endometrial Cancer - Your guide to best cancer care

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Understanding Cancer of the Uterus

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed March 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Prof Michael Friedlander, Medical Oncologist, The Prince of Wales Hospital and Conjoint Professor of Medicine, The University of NSW, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Adele Hudson, Statewide Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Oncology Service, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Dr Anthony Richards, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, VIC; Georgina Richter, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.