Understanding your diagnosis
Your test results provide a lot of information about your cancer.
This may include:
- the cells it started in (cancer type)
- whether it has spread from where it started (cancer stage)
- whether it is likely to grow quickly or slowly (cancer grade).
Your specialist uses this information to explain how the cancer could affect you in the future (your prognosis), and what your treatment options are. Your specialist may arrange further tests if more information is required.
What you need to know
Types of uterine cancer
Most uterine cancers (around 95%) are endometrial cancers, which begin in the endometrium or lining of the uterus. These are mainly adenocarcinomas, meaning they start in glandular cells.
A rarer type of uterine cancer is a sarcoma. These start in the muscle which forms the wall of the uterus (myometrium) or other supporting tissues.
Types of sarcoma of the uterus include:
- endometrial stromal sarcoma.
Uterine cancer stage
The stage of a cancer is how large it is and how far it has spread when it is first diagnosed.
Knowing the stage of a cancer helps doctors to work out the best treatment options. It also means the person with cancer can fully understand their situation and discuss any concerns they have.
The FIGO (International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics) system is used to describe uterine cancer:
- Stage l – the cancer is in the uterus and has not spread.
- Stage ll – the cancer has spread from the uterus to the cervix.
- Stage lll – cancer has spread outside the uterus, but is still in the pelvic area.
- Stage lV – cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
The grade of a cancer is based on how abnormal the cells look under a microscope. Cancers with very abnormal cells are likely to grow and spread faster.
- Grade 1 (low grade) – the cells look similar to normal cells and are growing and dividing slowly.
- Grade 2 (intermediate grade) – the cells don’t look like normal cells and are growing and dividing faster than normal cells.
- Grade 3 (high grade) – the cells look very abnormal and are growing and dividing quickly.
What to ask or talk about
Talking about prognosis
Prognosis means what is likely to happen to you in the future because of your cancer. You may find it hard to talk about prognosis but it can help you make decisions about the treatment and care you want.
Everyone’s cancer is different, and everyone responds differently to treatment. Because of this, doctors can’t tell you exactly what will happen to you. Instead, they can give you the best information they have about what to expect.
Doctors work out prognosis based on statistics. These show what happens in large groups of people with cancer. They cannot predict what will happen to you or any other individual person.
Your specialist will share information about you and your cancer with a multidisciplinary team (MDT) to decide the best treatment options for you.
You may need more than one type of treatment or have a choice of treatments. You may also need to see other specialists during treatment planning.
Dealing with your diagnosis
Getting a cancer diagnosis is very distressing for the person with cancer, and their carers, family and friends. Different people react in different ways. They can be upset and angry or just in shock. Many people find it difficult to take in all the information and understand what it will mean for them.
The situation can be especially difficult for people who get a diagnosis of advanced cancer.
If you need to speak to someone about your diagnosis, you can call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.