Cancer of the womb (uterus)

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer of the womb, we can provide the information you need, from understanding the cancer itself, to choosing the right treatment, to finding support.

Cancer of the womb is also known as cancer of the uterus or uterine cancer.

What you should know about cancer of the womb

  • Cancer of the womb (uterus) is when normal cells lining the womb change and form a cancer. It can affect how the womb works normally.
  • The cause of womb cancer is unknown. Your chance of developing it increases if you are have had the menopause, are overweight, taking HRT for a long time, have a family history of faulty genes, have polycystic ovaries or have never been pregnant and had children.
  • The main symptoms of womb cancer are bleeding after the menopause, bleeding between periods, heavier periods, and an abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Womb cancer is diagnosed by tests such as a transvaginal ultrasound, hysteroscopy, biopsy, and dilatation and curettage (D&C).
  • The main treatment for womb cancer is surgery.
  • Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy can also be used

What is the womb?

The womb is part of the female reproductive system together with the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the cervix and the vagina. The womb is also called the uterus. It is a muscular, pear-shaped organ found in your lower abdomen, between your bladder and back passage (rectum).
The lining of your womb is called the endometrium. Every month this lining thickens and grows and then falls away from the womb as a monthly period. There are also layers of muscle in the womb. The lower part of the womb is called the cervix or sometimes 'the neck of the womb'. During pregnancy, your womb protects the growing baby.

What is cancer of the womb?

When cancer develops in the womb, the cells change and grow in an abnormal way. A group of these cancer cells can form a tumour. Womb cancer is often called cancer of the uterus or uterine cancer. There are different types of womb cancer but the most common type is endometrial cancer. This affects the lining of the womb or endometrium. When cancer cells occur in the muscle layers of the womb, it is called sarcoma of the womb. The most common type is leiomyosarcoma.

Other types include:

  • papillary serous carcinoma
  • endometrioid adenocarcinoma
  • clear cell carcinoma

There are also some benign conditions of the womb such as endometriosis and fibroids.

How common is womb cancer?

In 2017 it was estimated that 486 women in Ireland are diagnosed with womb cancer each year. It most commonly occurs in women after the menopause.

Cancer publications

For booklets and factsheets, including information about cancer types, treatments, side-effects, emotional effects, financial information and more. Visit our publications section.

Useful resources

Note: Links to external websites are listed below. The Irish Cancer Society is not responsible for the contents of external websites.