Can Endometrial Cancer Be Found Early?

The best way to find endometrial cancer when it's small (at an early stage) is to see a health care provider if you have any signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge (that's getting worse, occurring between periods, or happening after menopause). Early detection improves the chances that the cancer will be treated successfully.

Most women with endometrial cancer have abnormal vaginal bleeding. Still, some endometrial cancers may reach an advanced stage before causing signs and symptoms. This means the cancer is big and may have spread before it causes any problems that are noticed.

Early detection tests for endometrial cancer

Early detection (also called screening) refers to the use of tests to find a disease, like cancer, in people who don't have symptoms of that disease. Early detection tests can help find some types of cancer at an early stage -- when it's small and hasn't spread beyond the place it started.

If you are at average risk

At this time, there are no screening tests or exams to find endometrial cancer early in women who are at average endometrial cancer risk and have no symptoms.

The American Cancer Society recommends that, at menopause, all women should be told about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any vaginal bleeding, discharge, or spotting to their doctor.

Women should also talk to their doctors about getting regular pelvic exams. A pelvic exam can find some cancers, including some advanced uterine cancers, but it's not very useful for finding early endometrial cancers.

The Pap test, which screens women for cervical cancer, can sometimes find some early endometrial cancers, but it’s not a good test for this type of cancer. For information on screening tests for cervical cancer, see Cervical Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

If you are at increased risk

The American Cancer Society recommends that most women at increased risk for endometrial cancer should be informed of their risk and be advised to see their doctor whenever they have any abnormal vaginal bleeding. This includes women whose risk is increased due to age, late menopause, never giving birth, infertility, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, estrogen treatment, or tamoxifen therapy.

Women who have (or may have) hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, or Lynch syndrome) have a very high risk of endometrial cancer.

If several family members have had colon or endometrial cancer, consider getting genetic counseling to learn about your family’s risk of having HNPCC. If you (or a close relative) have genetic testing and are found to have a mutation in one of the genes for HNPCC, you are at high risk of getting endometrial cancer, as well as some other kinds of cancer. See Understanding Genetic Testing for more on this.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women who have (or may have) HNPCC be offered yearly testing for endometrial cancer with endometrial biopsy starting at age 35. Their doctors should discuss this test with them, including its risks, benefits, and limitations. This applies to women known to carry HNPCC-linked gene mutations, women who are likely to carry such a mutation (those with a mutation known to be present in the family), and women from families with a tendency to get colon cancer where genetic testing has not been done.

Another option for a woman who has (or may have) HNPCC is to have a hysterectomy once she is done having children. (See Can Endometrial Cancer Be Prevented?)

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 27, 2019 Last Revised: March 27, 2019

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