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Types of womb cancer

By far the most common type of cancer of the womb is endometrial cancer. Endometrial means that the cancer starts in the lining of the womb. This lining is called the endometrium. About 95 out of every 100 endometrial cancers (95%) are adenocarcinomas. There are 3 main types of adenocarcinomas

  • Endometrioid adenocarcinomas
  • Papillary serous carcinomas
  • Clear cell carcinoma

Sarcomas are a much less common type of womb cancer. These develop from cells in the muscle layer of the womb rather than the lining. Sarcomas are treated differently to endometrial cancer.

Carcinosarcoma is a rare type of womb cancer. It has features of both endometrial cancer and sarcoma. Doctors class carcinosarcoma of the womb as a type of endometrial cancer and treat it in a similar way.

Although the cervix is part of the womb, cervical cancer is very different from womb cancer. We have a large section on cancer of the cervix.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about womb cancer section.

 

 

Endometrial cancer

By far the most common type of cancer of the womb is endometrial cancer. Endometrial means that the cancer starts in the lining of the womb. This lining is called the endometrium. About 95 out of every 100 endometrial cancers (95%) are adenocarcinomas. Adeno means that the cells that have become cancerous are the cells of glandular tissue. So, in the most common type of womb cancer, the cancer is in the glands of the endometrium. Carcinoma means that the cancer has started in a surface or lining layer of cells (the epithelium). There are 3 main types of adenocarcinomas

Doctors sometimes divide endometrial cancers into 2 types. Type 1 cancers are the most common type. They are usually endometrioid adenocarcinomas, and are linked to excess oestrogen in the body. They are generally slow growing and less likely to spread. Type 2 cancers include papillary serous carcinomas and clear cell carcinomas. These cancers are not linked to excess oestrogen. They are generally faster growing and more likely to spread.

 

Endometrioid adenocarcinomas

More than 3 out of 4 adenocarcinomas of the womb lining are this type. Endometrioid is pronounced endo-mee-tree-oyd. These cancers are often diagnosed at an early stage and so are usually treated successfully.

There are different sub types of endometrioid cancer. Some types have squamous cells as well as glandular cells. Adenoacanthomas have a mix of cancerous glandular cells and benign (non cancerous) squamous cells. If both the glandular cells and squamous cells are cancerous, it is called adenosquamous carcinoma.

 

Papillary serous carcinoma

This is much less common than endometrioid cancers. Only about 5 out of every 100 womb cancers (5%) are the papillary serous type. This is a more quickly growing type of cancer that is more likely to come back than other types, even if it is caught early.

 

Clear cell carcinoma

Clear cell carcinoma of the womb lining is very rare. These days, only about 1 or 2 cases of womb cancer in every 100 (1 to 2%) are clear cell cancer.

 

Sarcoma of the womb (uterine sarcoma)

These are cancers that develop from cells in the muscle layer of the womb, rather than the lining. They are a type of soft tissue sarcoma and are much less common than endometrial cancer. 

Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers of the supporting tissues of the body. There are many subtypes and they can develop from muscle or blood vessels, for example. They tend to spread in the bloodstream to other parts of the body especially the lungs. Their treatments are different to the other types of womb cancers. Leiomyosarcoma is the most common sarcoma of the womb. It is a cancer of the muscle wall.

Because they are so different to endometrial cancers, we haven't covered sarcomas in detail in this section. We have another section about soft tissue sarcomas.

 

Carcinosarcoma of the womb (uterine carcinosarcoma)

Carcinosarcoma is a rare type of womb cancer. It has features of both endometrial cancer and sarcoma when looked at under the microscope. Doctors class carcinosarcomas as a type of endometrial cancer as they have similar risk factors and behave in a similar way. They generally treat them as a type 2 endometrial cancer.

 

Cancer of the neck of the womb (cervix)

Although the cervix is part of the womb, cervical cancer is very different from womb cancer. We have a section about cancer of the cervix.

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Updated: 4 October 2014