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A rare type of uterine cancer that forms in muscle or other tissues of the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops). It usually occurs after menopause. The two main types are leiomyosarcoma (cancer that begins in smooth muscle cells) and endometrial stromal sarcoma (cancer that begins in connective tissue cells).
The uterus is part of the female reproductive system. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ in the pelvis, where a fetus grows. The cervix is at the lower, narrow end of the uterus, and leads to the vagina.
Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.
Uterine sarcoma is a very rare kind of cancer that forms in the uterine muscles or in tissues that support the uterus. (Information about other types of sarcomas can be found in the summary on Soft Tissue Sarcoma in the A-Z List of Cancers.) Uterine sarcoma is different from cancer of the endometrium, a disease in which cancer cells start growing inside the lining of the uterus. (See the summary on Endometrial Cancer in the A-Z List of Cancers for information).
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for uterine sarcoma include the following:
Abnormal bleeding from the vagina and other signs and symptoms may be caused by uterine sarcoma or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
Carcinosarcoma of the uterus (also known as malignant mixed Mullerian tumour, MMT) is an extremely rare and highly aggressive subtype of uterine cancer. MMT constitutes only 3-4% of uterine malignancies overall yet accounts for a disproportionate percentage of mortality, with five year survival rates ranging from 5-40%. It is a biphasic (two-component) tumour containing a mixture of:
In the majority of uterine carcinosarcoma, both the carcinoma and the sarcoma components are histologically high grade (high grade cancer cells tend to grow and spread more quickly than low-grade cells). It is not certain whether uterine carcinosarcoma starts out as carcinoma that undergoes sarcomatous transformation or as sarcoma that undergoes epithelial differentiation. These tumours are most commonly found in the endometrium, however, they can arise in any organ of the female genital tract including:
Clinically, patients with uterine MMT present with abnormal vaginal bleeding or pelvic or abdominal pain MMTs are most often found in post-menopausal women, however rare cases have been found in younger women.
Uterine NETs are usually only diagnosed when tissue is studied for signs of more common cancers in these areas. There are two main types - neuroendocrine tumours and neuroendocrine carcinomas. Both are neuroendocrine cancers but neuroendocrine carcinomas are more aggressive.
For more information on uterine NETs, click here for a fact sheet by the NETs Patient Foundation (UK).
Adenosarcoma of the uterus is a rare tumor of the uterus that typically originates in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). This type of tumor is characterized by both benign (noncancerous) and malignant components (low-grade sarcoma). Typical symptoms in affected individuals may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, an enlarged uterus, and tissue protruding from the external os (external opening of the uterus that leads into the cavity of the cervix). It is most common in post-menopausal women but can affect women of any age. Factors that may predisposed an individual to the condition include hyperestrogenemia (high blood estrogen levels), chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. Recommended treatment includes hysterectomy, usually accompanied by bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries). Ovarian conservation is an option for reproductive age women.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Pelvic exam. A doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum are also checked.
Pap test. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to widen it. Then, a brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix. The cells are checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
Transvaginal ultrasound. An ultrasound probe connected to a computer is inserted into the vagina and is gently moved to show different organs. The probe bounces sound waves off internal organs and tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture).
Dilatation and curettage (D and C). A speculum is inserted into the vagina to widen it in order to look at the cervix (first panel). A dilator is used to widen the cervix (middle panel). A curette is put through the cervix into the uterus to scrape out abnormal tissue (last panel).
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
For more information on Uterine Sarcoma click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.Information has also been sourced from sarcomahelp.org
Page last updated: 22/05/2022