Tests for womb cancer

You usually have a number of tests to check for womb cancer. Womb cancer is also called uterine cancer. This is because 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.  

The womb is the pear shaped muscular organ that holds and protects a baby during pregnancy. It is part of the female reproductive system Open a glossary item.

Diagram showing the parts of the female reproductive system

The tests you might have to check for womb cancer include:

  • blood tests

  • an ultrasound scan

  • taking a sample of tissue called a biopsy

Some people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed when having some of these tests. They may also be painful, which is distressing. Your GP or specialist will try to make you as comfortable as possible.

If you want, you can ask for someone else to be in the room with you to act as a chaperone. A chaperone is a trained healthcare professional such as a nurse. A friend or relative can also stay with you for support and comfort. They can be with you during the test or examination.

Before any examination, your GP or specialist will explain what they are going to do. Ask them if you are not clear about anything.

Tests your GP might do

Most people with symptoms that could be due to cancer start by contacting their GP surgery. Your first appointment may be a telephone appointment. Your GP surgery then might arrange for you to go in and see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Your GP can do some tests to help them decide whether you need to see a specialist. This usually includes:

  • a physical examination
  • blood tests

Depending on your symptoms and test results, your GP might also request other tests.

Physical examination

Your GP usually does a physical examination. This includes looking at and feeling your:

  • tummy (abdomen)
  • pelvis Open a glossary item

Your doctor feels for any areas that are swollen or might not feel normal. They might also do a pelvic examination.

Pelvic examination

A pelvic examination is also called a:

  • pelvic exam
  • vaginal examination
  • internal examination

To have this test, you usually lie down with your knees up and legs apart. You may be asked to rest your legs on padded leg supports.

Your doctor uses a speculum Open a glossary item to gently open your vagina. They look at the vagina and cervix to see if there is anything abnormal. Your doctor may use a strong light and magnifier.

They may also put two gloved fingers into your vagina. They then press down on your abdomen at the same time with their other hand. They feel for any lumps or abnormalities. Your doctor may also check your rectum (back passage). They can feel for any lumps or changes in size or shape.

Blood tests

Blood tests can check your general health including:

  • how well your liver and kidneys are working
  • checks the number of blood cells Open a glossary item such as platelets Open a glossary item and red blood cells Open a glossary item

Depending on your symptoms, they may also ask you to have other types of blood tests. 

Tests your specialist might do

Depending on the results of your tests, your GP might refer you to a specialist doctor at the hospital. This is usually a gynaecologist.

Your specialist usually does more tests. These include:

  • an ultrasound scan

  • taking a sample of tissue from your womb called an endometrial biopsy

  • a CT scan

  • a MRI scan

Ultrasound scan

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of the inside of your body.

The ultrasound scanner has a probe that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the probe picks them up. The probe links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.

You usually have an ultrasound scan of the lower part of your abdomen. This is an external ultrasound. This is when the doctor or a specialist healthcare professional called a sonographer moves the ultrasound probe over your skin.

You may also have a vaginal ultrasound scan. This is when your doctor or sonographer gently puts an ultrasound probe into your vagina. A vaginal ultrasound is also called an internal ultrasound or transvaginal ultrasound (TVS). 


A biopsy is the only way to find out for sure if you have womb cancer. A biopsy of the womb is also called an endometrial biopsy. Your doctor takes a sample of tissue from the womb and sends the sample to the laboratory. A specialist doctor called a pathologist checks the sample for cancer cells.

There are different ways to have a womb biopsy. The most common way is to have an aspiration biopsy.

You usually have an aspiration biopsy in the outpatient clinic. Your doctor uses a speculum to gently open your vagina. Then they put a long thin tube into the womb through your vagina. They use gentle suction to draw some of the cells into the tube.

You may have some period type pain during and after an aspiration biopsy. Speak to your doctor if you have any pain. They can give you some mild painkillers to help control the pain.

Your doctor may suggest you have a hysteroscopy if you can’t have an aspiration biopsy for any reason. They use a very thin camera called a hysteroscope to look into your womb and take a biopsy.

CT scan

A CT scan uses x-rays and a computer to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body. The computer puts them together to make a 3 dimensional (3D) image.

You usually have a CT scan of your chest, abdomen and pelvis. This helps to find out where the cancer is and whether it has spread (stage Open a glossary item).

MRI scan

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It uses magnetism and radio waves to take pictures of the inside of the body.

An MRI can tell your doctor:

  • where the cancer is and how big it is
  • whether it has spread to the lymph nodes Open a glossary item


The tests you have help your doctor find out if you have womb cancer and how far it has grown. This is the stage of the cancer.

This is important because doctors recommend your treatment according to the stage of the cancer.

Coping with womb cancer

Cancer affects people in different ways. Coping with a diagnosis of womb cancer can be difficult for some people. There is help and support for you and your family.

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    J Morrison and others
    European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, March 2022. Volume 270, Pages 50 to 89

  • Routes to diagnosis, 2018
    NHS Digital, Last accessed December 2023

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding: assessment and management
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2018 (last updated May 2021)

  • Endometrial biopsy: indications, techniques and recommendations. An evidence-based guideline for clinical practice
    S Vitale and others
    Journal of Gynecology Obstetrics and Human Reproduction, 2023. Volume 52, Issue 6

  • ESGO/ESTRO/ESP guidelines for the management of patients with endometrial carcinoma
    N Concin and others
    International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, 2021. Volume 31, Pages: 12 to 39

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

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