Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Endometrial Cancer

The cause of endometrial cancer is unknown. But, knowing the risk factors can reduce your risk of developing endometrial cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Women age 50 and older
  • Diet and exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of endometrial cancer or colorectal cancer
  • Having been diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer in the past
  • Having been diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia in the past
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the pelvis to treat another cancer
  • Anything that affects hormone levels such as taking estrogen after menopause, pregnancy, obesity, certain ovarian tumors and polycystic ovarian syndrome


To diagnose endometrial cancer, your physician will perform an assessment of your personal health history, symptoms, risk factors and family health history. Your physician will also perform a physical exam that includes a pelvic exam.

You may be referred to a gynecologist or gynecologic oncologist for diagnosis. Additional diagnostic tests may include:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to produce images of the uterus and measures the thickness of the endometrium. Your physician may do a biopsy if the endometrium looks too thick.
  • Endometrial biopsy: Small pieces of tissue are removed and looked at under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to confirm cancer. An endometrial tissue sample is collected by using a small flexible tube that is put into the uterus.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): Your physician may recommend a D&C if an endometrial biopsy is not possible or more information is needed. This is a minor surgery in which the cervix is opened (dilated). The cervical canal and uterine lining are then scraped with a spoon-shaped tool called a curette. A pathologist looks at the tissue for cancer cells.

Your physician will discuss your tests results with you and work with you to plan the next steps if you are diagnosed with endometrial cancer.