The uterus, a hollow organ in the pelvis in which a fetus can grow, is part of the female reproductive system. Cancerous cells that develop in the muscles of the uterine wall or supporting connective tissues are called uterine sarcoma.
Uterine sarcoma is rare, accounting for only 1,200 of the approximately 43,500 cases of uterine (endometrial) cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. Less than 4 percent of all cancers of the uterus are uterine sarcomas.
Types of Uterine Sarcoma
There are several types of uterine sarcoma:
- low grade endometrial stromal sarcoma
- high grade undifferentiated sarcoma
- adenosarcoma with sarcomatous overgrowth
- PEComa (perivascular endothelial cell tumor)
These tumors vary in the way they behave and should be managed. For this reason, specialized pathology review is recommended.
The only known risk factor for the development of uterine sarcoma is having previously received radiation therapy to the pelvic region. Some cases have also been associated with the use of the drug tamoxifen. Women who have taken tamoxifen should have regular pelvic examinations and report any unusual vaginal bleeding to their doctors.
Most women with uterine sarcoma first notice abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting, or unusual vaginal discharge between menstrual periods or after menopause.
Other symptoms can include pain and an unusual feeling of fullness in the pelvic area and frequent urination.