It’s important to remember that the symptoms of womb cancer are usually caused by other non-cancerous conditions. Most women who notice these symptoms won’t have womb cancer. If you do notice any symptoms though, you should see a doctor a soon as possible, especially if you’ve been through the menopause.
At the moment, there aren’t any reliable screening tests that can pick up the early stages of womb cancer.
Around 9 out of 10 womb cancer cases are spotted because women notice irregular vaginal bleeding or bleeding after the menopause. Other common symptoms include:
- unusually heavy bleeding during your period or between periods
- a change in the colour, consistency or smell of vaginal discharge.
Less common symptoms include pain in your lower tummy (abdomen) or pain during sex.
There are often more symptoms in advanced womb cancer and can include:
- loss of appetite
- losing weight
- feeling tired or sick
- needing to pee more often
- pain in your back or legs.
Getting symptoms checked
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor, who might perform a pelvic examination. They’ll ask you to lie on your back with your knees up so they can fall gently apart. Then your doctor will feel for things like lumps or swellings and changes in shape.
They may also want to look at your cervix – the muscle at the opening of your womb – to see if it looks normal. They’ll use something called a speculum to carefully open your vagina. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable, but let them know if you feel any pain.
Your doctor might refer you to a consultant gynaecologist for further tests.
Womb cancer tests at BMI Healthcare
At BMI Healthcare, we offer specialised tests at our Women’s Health clinics across the country, where you’ll be seen by one of our consultant gynaecologists, who specialise in the female reproductive system.
Because our consultant gynaecologists specialists are highly experienced, you’ll get expert advice and excellent care, with your test results usually delivered within 48 hours.
Womb cancer can sometimes produce a protein called CA125, which is carried in the blood. Your or consultant gynaecologist might ask you to have a blood test to see if your CA125 levels are normal. If your test shows high levels, you’ll need to have further tests to help identify the problem. It can be caused by other conditions ¬– not just womb cancer.
Womb lining biopsy
Taking a sample of the tissue in your womb lining is the only way to give a definite diagnosis of womb cancer. The sample will then be examined in a lab for cancerous or abnormal cells. There are a few different ways to take a sample of cells.
- Endometrial biopsy uses a small plastic tube and syringe to gentle suck cells from your womb by going through your vagina
- Hysteroscopy lets your consultant gynaecologist look inside your womb by using a very thin telescope called a hysteroscope.
- Dilatation and curettage (D and C) happens under general anaesthetic so you’re asleep for the procedure. It lets your doctor sweep for samples of your womb’s lining by opening the entrance to your womb called the cervix. The sample of cells is then checked in a lab.
Ultrasound scans use sound waves to build up a picture of your womb. It shows how thick the womb lining is, and lets your doctor or radiographer check the other organs in your pelvis.
Sometimes, the ultrasound probe will be put inside your vagina. This is called a transvaginal ultrasound. Alternatively, you might have an abdominal ultrasound, which is when the probe goes over your tummy (abdomen).
The stages of womb cancer
Once you’ve been diagnosed with womb cancer, your consultant gynaecologist will give you a stage. The stage tells you the size of the cancer and how far it’s spread. The grade describes what the cells look like.
- Stage 1: The cancer is confined to your womb
- Stage 2: The cancer has spread to your cervix (the neck of your womb)
- Stage 3: The cancer has spread outside your womb and into other tissues in your pelvis
- Stage 4: The cancer has spread to your abdomen or other organs.
For more detailed explanations of each of the stages, please read Cancer Research UK’s stages of womb cancer guide.