What is womb cancer?

Womb cancer is sometimes called uterine cancer by doctors as 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 a woman’s reproductive system. It is the pear shaped muscular organ that holds and protects a growing baby during pregnancy. It is hollow a bit 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 does womb cancer start?

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

Adeno means that the cells that have become cancerous are the cells of glandular tissue. So for the most common type of womb cancer, the cancer is in the glands of the endometrium. Carcinoma means that the cancer has started in a surface or lining layer of cells (the epithelium).

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.

Who gets it?

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

Last reviewed: 
23 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
23 Jan 2024

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