National Cancer Institute

Posted Date: Aug 8, 2002


Overview of Screening

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What is screening?

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Screening for cancer is examination (or testing) of people for early stages inthe development of cancer even though they have no symptoms. Scientists havestudied patterns of cancer in the population to learn which people are morelikely to get certain types of cancer. They have also studied what thingsaround us and what things we do in our lives may cause cancer. Thisinformation sometimes helps doctors recommend who should be screened forcertain types of cancer, what types of screening tests people should have, andhow often these tests should be done. Not all screening tests are helpful, andmost have risks such as pain or tearing (perforation) of the uterus during abiopsy for an abnormal screening test. For this reason, scientists at theNational Cancer Institute are studying many screening tests to find out howuseful they are and to determine the relative benefits and harms.

If your doctor suggests certain cancer screening tests as part of your healthcare plan, this does not mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screeningtests are done when you have no symptoms. Since decisions about screening canbe difficult, you may want to discuss them with your doctor and ask questionsabout the potential benefits and risks of screening tests and whether they havebeen proven to decrease the risk of dying from cancer.

If your doctor suspects that you may have cancer, he or she will order certaintests to see whether you do. These are called diagnostic tests. Some testsare used for diagnostic purposes, but are not suitable for screening people whohave no symptoms.

Purposes of this summary

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The purposes of this summary on endometrial cancer screening are to:

  • give information on endometrial cancer and what makes it more likely to occur(risk factors)
  • describe endometrial cancer screening methods and what is known about theireffectiveness

You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer screeningand whether it would be likely to help you.

Endometrial Cancer Screening

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The endometrium is the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Itis part of the female reproductive system.

Risk of endometrial cancer

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Endometrial cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer of the femalereproductive system in the United States. The number of new cases ofendometrial cancer declined steadily from 1978-1988 and has remained fairlyconstant since 1988. In addition, fewer deaths are resulting from endometrialcancer.

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called arisk factor. Some of these risk factors for endometrial cancer are as follows:

Age at Onset of Menstruation and at Menopause: Beginning menstruation at anearly age and beginning menopause at a late age may increase the risk ofdeveloping endometrial cancer.

Diet and Lifestyle: Women who are overweight or consume a high fat diet have ahigher risk of developing endometrial cancer.

Hereditary Conditions: Women who have the gene for hereditary nonpolyposiscolorectal cancer (HNPCC) have a greater risk of developing endometrial cancer.

Hormone Therapy: Women who use estrogen replacement therapy withoutprogesterone may increase their risk of developing endometrial cancer. Usingtamoxifen may also increase the chance of developing endometrial cancer.

Number of Children: Women who have never been pregnant are more likely todevelop endometrial cancer than are women who have had children.

Race: Although black women are less likely than white women to developendometrial cancer, once it is diagnosed the risk is higher that it will be inan advanced stage. Black women are therefore more likely to die of endometrialcancer then white women.

Women who have abnormal vaginal bleeding should be evaluated by their doctor.

Screening tests for endometrial cancer

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A routine effective screening test for endometrial cancer has not yet beendeveloped.

To Learn More

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For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Web sites and Organizations

The NCI's Web site provides online access to information on cancer, clinical trials, and other Web sites and organizations that offer support and resources for cancer patients and their families. There are also many other places where people can get materials and information about cancer treatment and services. Local hospitals may have information on local and regional agencies that offer information about finances, getting to and from treatment, receiving care at home, and dealing with problems associated with cancer treatment.


The NCI has booklets and other materials for patients, health professionals, and the public. These publications discuss types of cancer, methods of cancer treatment, coping with cancer, and clinical trials. Some publications provide information on tests for cancer, cancer causes and prevention, cancer statistics, and NCI research activities. NCI materials on these and other topics may be ordered online or printed directly from the NCI Publications Locator. These materials can also be ordered by telephone from the Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237), TTY at 1-800-332-8615.


The NCI's LiveHelp service, a program available on several of the Institute's Web sites, provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Information Specialists can help Internet users find information on NCI Web sites and answer questions about cancer.


For more information from the NCI, please write to this address:

  • NCI Public Inquiries Office
  • Suite 3036A
  • 6116 Executive Boulevard, MSC8322
  • Bethesda, MD 20892-8322

About PDQ

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PDQ is a comprehensive cancer database available on

PDQ is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ is available online at, the NCI's Web site. PDQ is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.

PDQ contains cancer information summaries.

The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.

The PDQ cancer information summaries are developed by cancer experts and reviewed regularly.

Editorial Boards made up of experts in oncology and related specialties are responsible for writing and maintaining the cancer information summaries. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made as new information becomes available. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") indicates the time of the most recent change.

PDQ also contains information on clinical trials.

People who are at high risk for a certain type of cancer may want to take part in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether a method of finding cancer earlier can help people to live longer. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients and those who are at risk for cancer. During screening clinical trials, information is collected about screening methods, the risks involved, and how well they do or do not work. If a clinical trial shows that a new method is better than one currently being used, the new method may become "standard."

Listings of clinical trials are included in PDQ and are available online at Descriptions of the trials are available in health professional and patient versions. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.


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