What is womb cancer?

Womb cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer by doctors. The uterus is the medical name for the womb. You may also hear it called endometrial cancer. The endometrium is the lining of the womb. Endometrial cancer is the most common type of womb cancer.

If you are looking for information about cancer of the neck of the womb (cervix), this is not the right section for you. We have a separate section about cervical cancer.

The womb and reproductive system

The womb is part of the female reproductive system. It is a pear shaped muscular organ that holds and protects a growing baby during pregnancy. It is hollow, like a bag. The reproductive system is made up of the:

  • vulva
  • vagina
  • womb (uterus)
  • neck of the womb (the cervix)
  • fallopian tubes
  • ovaries
Diagram showing the parts of the female reproductive system

This video shows more detail about the female reproductive system. It lasts for 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Where womb cancer starts

Most womb cancers start in specific cells in the womb lining, the endometrium. Most endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Adeno means that the cancerous cells are of glandular tissue. So, for the most common type of womb cancer, the cancer is in the glands of the endometrium. Carcinoma means the cancer has started in tissues lining or covering internal organs.

Who gets womb cancer?

Most people who develop womb cancer are older women. It's much less common in those younger than 40.

How common is womb cancer?

Around 9,700 women are diagnosed with womb cancer in the UK each year. This makes it the 4th most common cancer in women in the UK.

  • Cancer Incidence from Cancer Intelligence Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK  (2016 - 2018 UK average) 
    Accessed January 2024

  • Ross and Wilson Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness (14th edition)    
    A Waugh and A Grant
    Elsevier Ltd, 2023

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular risk or cause you are interested in.

Last reviewed: 
08 Feb 2024
Next review due: 
08 Feb 2027

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