What is Endometrial cancer?

Endometrial cancer is cancer that arises from the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium). It is the most common type of cancer of the uterus, and the most common gynaecological cancer diagnosed in Australian women.

There is separate information about the other main type of cancer of the uterus, called uterine sarcoma. If you have been told you have ‘cancer of the uterus’, ‘cancer of the womb’ or ‘uterine cancer’, and you are not sure if it is endometrial cancer or uterine sarcoma, check with your doctor. Read More

About the uterus

The uterus, or womb, is the main female reproductive organ. It is about the size and shape of a hollow, upside-down pear, and sits low in the abdomen between the bladder and rectum. It is joined to the vagina by the cervix, which is the neck of the uterus.

The bulk of the uterus is smooth muscle tissue, which is called the myometrium. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium.

When women ovulate (produce eggs in their ovaries), an egg travels through the fallopian tube into the uterus. If the egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will implant itself into the endometrium and grow into a baby.

If the egg is not fertilised, the top layers of the endometrium are shed and flow out of the body through the vagina during menstruation. This is known as a woman’s period.

Menopause occurs when a woman no longer releases the hormones that cause ovulation and menstruation. A menopausal woman’s monthly periods stop, and she can no longer become pregnant. The uterus becomes smaller and the endometrium becomes thinner and inactive.

Benign conditions of the uterus (not cancer)

Several conditions can affect the uterus that are not cancerous.


Fibroids are common benign tumours that grow in the muscle of the uterus. They occur mainly in women in their 40s, and only rarely become cancer.

Usually, fibroids cause no symptoms and need no treatment. But depending on their size and location, they can cause bleeding, vaginal discharge and frequent urination. Women with these symptoms should see their doctor.

If fibroids cause heavy bleeding, or if they press against nearby organs and cause pain, the doctor can refer you to a gynaecologist, who may suggest surgery or other treatment.

As you reach menopause, fibroids are likely to become smaller, and sometimes disappear.


Endometriosis is most common in women in their 30s and 40s, especially in women who have never been pregnant. It occurs when endometrial tissue begins to grow on the outside of the uterus and on nearby organs.

Symptoms may include painful menstrual periods, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and sometimes loss of fertility (ability to get pregnant).


Uterine adenomyosis is a benign condition that causes heavy, painful periods in women. This happens because cells that normally line the inside of the uterus start to grow in the walls of the uterus. It may often occur along with endometriosis.

Endometrial hyperplasia

Endometrial hyperplasia is an increase in the number of cells in the lining of the uterus. It is most common in women older than 40.

Endometrial hyperplasia is not cancer, but it can sometimes develop into cancer.

Symptoms may include heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods and bleeding after menopause.

To prevent endometrial hyperplasia from developing into cancer, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) or treatment with hormones (progesterone) and regular follow-up curettage. Hide

  • Endometrial cancer statistics

    Endometrial cancer statistics

     It is the most common type of cancer of the uterus, and the most common gynaecological cancer diagnosed in Australian women.

  • Know the risk factors

    Know the risk factors

    Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors or whether someone in the family has had cancer.

  • Endometrial cancer symptoms

    Endometrial cancer symptoms

    The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal discharge, particularly if it occurs after menopause. The discharge can appear watery or bloody, and may have a bad smell.

  • How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?

    How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?

    There are a range of tests to confirm a diagnosis of endometrial cancer.

  • Treatment options

    Treatment options

    Treatment and care of people with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals, both medical and allied health, called a multidisciplinary team.

  • Finding support

    Finding support

    You might feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious or upset if you have been diagnosed with cancer – these are all normal feelings.

  • Research & clinical trials

    Research & clinical trials

    Research is ongoing to find new ways to diagnose and treat different types of cancer.

  • Health professionals

    Health professionals

    Information and Clinical Guidelines for Health professionals.

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