Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer Overview

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Treating Endometrial Cancer TOPICS

Surgery for endometrial cancer


The main treatment for endometrial cancer is an operation to take out the uterus and cervix. This is called a hysterectomy. If only the uterus is removed, it is called a simple or total hysterectomy. If the tissue around the uterus (including the upper part of the vagina) is also removed, it is called a radical hysterectomy. This is used for more advanced cancers.

Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy

Removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) is not officially part of a hysterectomy but it is often done at the same time. For some younger women with very early stage endometrial cancer, leaving the ovaries in may be an option.

Lymph node surgery

To find out the stage of the cancer, lymph nodes in the pelvis and around the aorta will also need to be removed (see below). This can be done at the same time as an abdominal or laparoscopic hysterectomy or as a separate procedure.

If many of these lymph nodes are removed it is called a lymph node dissection. If only a few of the lymph nodes are removed, it is called lymph node sampling. Either way, the removed lymph nodes are looked at to see if they contain cancer cells.

Pelvic washings

To look for small numbers of cancer cells that are too small to see, the surgeon can “wash” the abdominal and pelvic areas with salt water (saline). The fluid is sent to the lab to see if it contains cancer cells.

Other methods to look for cancer spread

Omentectomy: The omentum is a layer of fatty tissue that covers the belly contents like an apron. When this tissue is removed, it is called an omentectomy. Sometimes the omentum is removed during a hysterectomy because it contains cancer or so it can be checked for cancer spread.

Peritoneal biopsies: The tissue lining the pelvis and abdomen is called the peritoneum. Peritoneal biopsies remove small pieces of this lining to check for cancer cells.

Tumor debulking

If cancer has spread throughout the abdomen, the surgeon may try to remove as much of the tumor as possible. This is called debulking. Debulking a cancer can help other treatments work better. Tumor debulking is helpful for other types of cancer, and it may also be helpful in treating some women with endometrial cancer.

More information about surgery for endometrial cancer can be found in Endometrial Cancer.

For more on lymphedema, see Understanding Lymphedema: For Cancers Other than Breast Cancer.

Surgery and menopausal symptoms can also affect your sex life. For more on this topic, you can read Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer.

Last Medical Review: 02/09/2015
Last Revised: 02/04/2016