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Uterine Cancer: Introduction

Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus (womb).

The uterus is a pear-shaped organ vital to child bearing. During a woman's fertile years, the uterus prepares each month to receive and nourish a fertilized egg. Hormonal changes direct the uterine lining to thicken. If no fertilized egg arrives, the uterus sheds the additional cells during menstruation. If the egg is fertilized, the developing fetus grows inside the uterus.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case uterus cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

The walls of the uterus are made up of the endometrium, the inner lining, and the myometrium, the muscular, outer lining. The most common type of cancer of the uterus begins in the endometrium. There are different types of endometrial cancers. All of these tumors involve the glandular cells. The most common type is endometrioid adenocarcinomas. The other types, papillary serous adenocarcinomas and clear cell adenocarcinomas grow and spread more rapidly than endometrioid adenocarcinomas.