Early and accurate diagnosis of endometrial cancer can help increase the chance for successful treatment. MD Anderson uses the most advanced techniques and technology to diagnose endometrial cancer and find out the exact extent of the disease. This helps your health care team choose the best type of treatment for you. Our staff includes pathologists, diagnostic radiologists and specially trained technicians who are highly skilled in diagnosing endometrial cancer.
Endometrial cancer diagnostic tests
If you have symptoms that may signal endometrial cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health; lifestyle; and your family history.
If your doctor thinks you might have endometrial cancer, the first step will be a biopsy, which involves removing suspected cancer tissue and studying it under a microscope. Your doctor will decide the best way to do the biopsy. Methods include:
Endometrial biopsy: A thin, flexible tube is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. Using suction, a small amount of tissue is removed through the tube.
D&C (dilation and curettage): If an endometrial biopsy is unable to be performed in the clinic, if the biopsy does not provide enough tissue or if an endometrial cancer diagnosis is not definite, a D&C may be done in the operating room. The cervix is dilated (enlarged) with a series of increasingly larger metal rods. A tool called a curette then is used to take cells from the uterus lining.
Hysteroscopy: A thin, telescope-like device with a light (hysteroscope) is put into the uterus through the vagina. The doctor then looks at the uterus and the openings to the fallopian tubes. Small pieces of tissue can be removed. Hysteroscopy may be done with a D&C.
If an endometrial cancer is diagnosed, imaging will likely need to be performed to find out more about what the disease looks like and to see if it may have spread outside of the uterus. One or more of the following may be performed:
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
- PET (positron emission tomography) scans
- Chest X-ray
Blood tests will likely be done as well to give more information about how your body is functioning and may provide additional information about the disease. These may include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Complete metabolic panel (CMP)
- CA 125: Endometrial cancers sometimes release this substance into the blood. This test, which is being studied at MD Anderson, measures levels of CA 125. High levels of CA 125 may mean the cancer has spread beyond the uterus or come back after treatment.
The Gynecological Cancer Genetics Clinic at MD Anderson offers genetic testing for some women with endometrial cancer or who are at risk. Genetic counseling may be recommended if you:
- Were diagnosed with endometrial cancer before age 50
- Have had colorectal cancer
- Have any close relatives with colon, rectal or endometrial cancer
- Have a relative who has tested positive for a Lynch syndrome gene mutation
- Have tests of the endometrial cancer itself that show specific abnormalities or features
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help prevent endometrial cancer. Visit our prevention and screening section to learn how to manage your risk.
Some cases of endometrial cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Learn more about the risk to you and your family on our genetic testing page.
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