Having genetic factors can raise a person’s risk of uterine cancer. Currently, there is no screening test, but some signs and symptoms may indicate a person has it.

Cancer that starts in the uterus, or womb, is known as uterine cancer. The uterus forms part of the female reproductive system and sits between the hip bones. It is where a fetus develops during pregnancy.

All people with a uterus are at risk for uterine cancer, and this risk increases with age. Most individuals who have uterine cancer are going through or have gone through menopause when menstrual periods stop.

There are two types of uterine cancer. Endometrial cancer is the more common type, and doctors can often treat it, while uterine sarcoma is rare and more difficult for doctors to treat. According to the American Cancer Society, uterine sarcomas make up about 2–5% of all uterine cancers. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute believe that 845,825 people in the United States were living with uterine cancer in 2020.

This article discusses whether uterine cancer is genetic as well as other causes of the disease, symptoms, and treatment options.

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People with a family history of endometrial cancer in a parent or sibling are more likely to develop it themselves. According to a 2020 review, they are 2–3 times more likely to have endometrial cancer. However, the research notes that nongenetic risk factors may also play a role.

For example, people living in the same household may share environmental or lifestyle risk factors that put them at risk of developing endometrial cancer. However, the researchers also add that other studies estimate a person’s genetics account for between 27 and 52% of endometrial cancers.

The review also notes that individuals with a family history of endometrial cancers are more at risk of:

A family history of other cancers, such as retinoblastoma and hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC), can raise a person’s risk of uterine sarcoma. Similarly, inheriting other conditions may also increase a person’s risk. These can include:

Lynch syndrome

Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), is an inherited condition that can raise a person’s risk of uterine cancer. The syndrome causes people to have issues with certain genes that help repair errors in DNA.

People with Lynch syndrome have up to a 70% risk of developing endometrial cancer. They are also more likely to develop some other cancers at a younger age, such as:

Cowden syndrome

Cowden syndrome is a rare inherited condition that results from genetic variations. People with Cowden syndrome have benign, noncancerous growths in many parts of their bodies. They may also have other symptoms, including:

They also have an increased risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, including endometrial cancer.

The overall risk of a person developing endometrial cancer is about 3%, but some other factors can raise a person’s individual risk. Some doctors believe that some factors may be causing a recent worldwide increase in diagnoses of uterine cancer, such as:

Age is a potential risk factor for many cancers, including uterine cancer. Other uterine cancer risk factors include:

Pelvic radiation therapy can increase a person’s risk of developing uterine sarcoma.

Uterine cancer causes people to have unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge. The bleeding may:

  • be unusually heavy
  • occur between periods
  • happen after menopause

Uterine cancer can also cause other symptoms, including:

  • pain or pressure in a person’s pelvis
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • dysuria, also called painful or difficult urination
  • frequent urination
  • pain during sexual intercourse

If a person has unusual or abnormal bleeding, especially after menopause, they should seek professional medical attention immediately.

Currently, there are no screening tests for people with no signs or symptoms of uterine cancer. Pap smear tests do not screen for uterine cancer.

However, doctors can use tests to diagnose or rule out uterine cancer if a person experiences signs or symptoms of the condition. These tests include general physical and pelvic exams. For those who are postmenopausal, doctors may perform a transvaginal ultrasound first. For premenopausal people, they will likely start with an endometrial biopsy.

The most common treatment for uterine cancer is a hysterectomy, or surgery to remove the uterus. Other treatments may include:

People with a family history of uterine cancer are more at risk of developing it, although there are other risk factors.

A person experiencing symptoms of uterine cancer should seek professional medical advice. These symptoms often include unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding. Pap smears do not detect uterine cancer, but doctors can perform other tests to check for it.