Symptoms and diagnosis of cancer of the womb (uterus)

Symptoms

The main symptoms of womb cancer are:

  • Bleeding after the menopause
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Heavier periods than normal
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain in your lower abdomen or back of legs
  • Discomfort or pain during sex

These symptoms can also be caused by complaints other than cancer, but do have them checked by your doctor.

Screening

Testing for womb cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national screening programme in Ireland or anywhere in the world at present for womb cancer. Talk to your GP if you feel you are at risk.

Diagnosis

Visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. If your GP has concerns about you, he or she will refer you to a hospital to see a specialist doctor called a gynaecologist. At the hospital, tests such as the following may be done:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Dilatation and curettage (D&C)

Transvaginal ultrasound: An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the tissues in your womb. For this scan, a small metal device called a probe is gently put into your vagina first. It looks like a microphone and is covered with a gel. By doing the test in this way, clear pictures of your womb can be seen on a computer. This test is not painful but may be a little uncomfortable.

Hysteroscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a light at the end (a hysteroscope) is passed through your vagina and into your womb. This allows your doctor to look inside your womb and take tissue samples or a biopsy. You may be given a local anaesthetic for this test.

Biopsy: Your doctor can take small amounts of tissue samples from your womb during the hysteroscopy. These are called biopsies. Biopsies are sent to a laboratory and looked at under a microscope to find out if cancer cells are present.

Dilatation and curettage (D&C): Here the doctor gently opens your cervix and entrance to the womb and takes samples of tissue from the inner lining of your womb. This is done with an instrument shaped like a spoon called a curette. The samples are then sent to the laboratory to be examined. This test is done under general anaesthetic.

Other tests

These may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

The above scans can help to stage the cancer. This means finding out the size of the cancer and if it has spread anywhere else. This can help your doctor to decide the right treatment for you.

Learn more about the above tests

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm