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What is the endometrium?

The endometrium is the inner lining of the womb. The womb (uterus) is a pear-shaped organ in the pelvis. It is made up of three layers;

  • A covering outer layer called the serosa

  • A middle layer of muscle called the myometrium

  • An inner lining layer called the endometrium

What is endometrial cancer?

Sometimes, the cells that make up the endometrium can become abnormal and cancerous, this is then given the name womb, uterine or endometrial cancer.

There are two types of cancer affecting the lining of the womb. Type 1 are linked to increased levels of oestrogen, a hormone produced by your body. They are often slow growing and less likely to spread. Type 2 cancers are not related to increased levels of oestrogen, are often faster growing and more likely to spread. Today, these are now further subdivided according to molecular testing.

Rarely, cancers of the womb can also arise from the muscle rather than the lining. These are called sarcomas and are not covered on this page.

Sometimes, womb cancer can spread to other parts of your body including your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system, whose role is to drain excess fluid from your tissues as well as fighting infection and disease (see diagram below). If this is the case, you will require so-called ‘adjuvant’ (postoperative) chemotherapy with or without additional radiotherapy. The purpose of this adjuvant treatment is to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. Your surgeon will also discuss with you whether you need your lymph nodes removed.

female reproductive system
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