Uterine Cancer Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of uterine cancer?

woman with pelvic pain
BSIP/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Uterine cancer symptoms can vary because there are several different types of uterine cancer that can affect women, such as endometrial cancer and uterine sarcomas.

  • Endometrial cancer involves the tissue that lines the uterus, the endometrium. This is a carcinoma, a cancer of the epithelial cells. They are the most common type of uterine cancer.
  • Uterine sarcomas are tumors inside the muscle tissue and supporting structures. They are far less common, they make up 4% or less of all uterine cancers.

    Symptoms of Uterine Cancer

    In general terms, the most common symptom of uterine cancer of any type is vaginal bleeding. If a woman is not yet in menopause, bleeding between periods or a change in her flow could be a symptom. This should prompt a medical checkup and be reported to your doctor.

    Post-Menopause Vaginal Bleeding: For a woman who has been through menopause, any vaginal bleeding or spotting is considered abnormal and requires an evaluation by a doctor. Uterine cancer is not the only cause of vaginal bleeding after menopause. Fibroids, thyroid disorders, polyps, and hormone replacement therapy can also cause vaginal bleeding in post-menopausal women. Women who are experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking through one sanitary pad an hour), should go to the emergency room.

    Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Pre-Menopause: In women who haven't yet gone through menopause, the predominant symptom of uterine cancer is also abnormal vaginal bleeding.

    Abnormal vaginal bleeding includes:

    • periods that are heavy and prolonged
    • heavy spotting that occurs between periods
    • more than one period in a cycle month
    • vaginal bleeding that occurs before and/or after sex
    • vaginal bleeding in women who are post-menopausal

    Symptoms of Uterine Sarcoma

    Specific symptoms of uterine sarcoma can include vaginal bleeding after menopause, spotting between periods, and a watery, vaginal discharge that may be blood tinged.

    Pelvic pain is another sign. You or your doctor may even be able to feel a mass in a small number of cases. In the early stages of uterine sarcoma, there may not be any noticeable symptoms.

    Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

    With endometrial cancer, the most common and first experienced symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Other symptoms include a watery vaginal discharge and pain during sexual intercourse. Symptoms that may occur at later stages include pelvic pain and at times you may even feel a mass or tumor. A non-specific symptom is losing weight without trying to do so.

    What to Expect at the Doctor If You Have Uterine Cancer Symptoms

    If endometrial cancer is suspected, a thorough pelvic exam will first be done by a gynecologist. The doctor will feel the uterus, vagina, ovaries and rectum for any masses or other unusual findings. Imaging tests can be done. These may include a transvaginal ultrasound to look for unusually thick endometrium. An endometrial biopsy is done to take a small amount of tissue out through the cervix. It is sent to the lab to be analyzed by a pathologist to confirm or rule out uterine cancer. Tissue may also be sampled by dilation and curettage (D&C), which requires anesthesia.


    Uterine Cancer: Diagnosis. American Society of Clinical Oncology

    Signs and Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer, American Cancer Society

    Signs and Symptoms of Uterine Sarcomas, American Cancer Society