Endometrial Cancer: Diagnosis
How is endometrial cancer diagnosed?
If your healthcare provider thinks you might have endometrial cancer, you will need
certain exams and tests to be sure. Endometrial cancer is cancer that starts in the
lining of the uterus (endometrium). Diagnosing endometrial cancer starts with your
healthcare provider asking you questions. He or she will ask about your health history,
your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Your healthcare provider
will also give you a physical exam. This will include a pelvic exam.
Diagnosis may be done by a gynecologist. Or you may see a gynecologic oncologist.
These doctors specialize in treating cancers and other diseases of the female reproductive
What tests might I need?
You may have one or more of the following tests:
Transvaginal ultrasound (ultrasonography)
An ultrasound test uses sound waves to create images on a computer screen. It’s done
with a small wand called a transducer that’s placed in the vagina. The test creates
pictures of the uterus. Ultrasound can show tumors and can be used to measure the
thickness of the endometrium. The doctor may do a biopsy if the endometrium looks
Sometimes a small tube is used to fill the uterus with salt water before doing the
ultrasound. This may be called a hysterosonogram or a saline infusion sonogram. The
saline helps the doctor get a better image of any changes in the lining of the uterus.
A biopsy is when small pieces of tissue are taken and looked at with a microscope.
A biopsy is the only way to confirm cancer. An endometrial tissue sample is collected
by using a small flexible tube that is put into the uterus. Suction is used to pull
out the tissue. The tissue sample is examined to see if there are cancer cells or
other abnormal cells in it. This biopsy is often done in a doctor’s office. It may
also be done during a D&C.
Dilation and curettage (D&C)
Your doctor may recommend a D&C if an endometrial biopsy is not possible or more information
is needed. This is a minor surgery in which the cervix is opened (dilated). The cervical
canal and uterine lining are then scraped with a spoon-shaped tool called a curette.
A pathologist looks at the tissue for cancer cells. Sometimes your healthcare provider
will use a thin, telescope-like tube to look into the uterus as the same time. This
is called a hysteroscopy.
Getting your test results
When your healthcare provider has the results of your tests, he or she will talk with
you about next steps. Your provider will talk with you about other tests you may need
if endometrial cancer is found. This may include repeating the biopsy or more tests.
Make sure you understand the results and what follow-up you need.