Endometrial Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

What tests might I have after being diagnosed?

After a diagnosis of endometrial cancer, you will likely need other tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about the cancer. They can help show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of your body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, be sure to talk with your healthcare team.

The tests you may have include:

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

  • Chest X-ray

  • Blood tests

Imaging tests

CT scan

This test helps your doctor see if cancer has spread to other parts of your body. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of your body.

During the test, you lie still on a table as it slowly slides through the center of the ring-shaped CT scanner. The scanner directs beams of X-rays at your body. A CT scan doesn't hurt. You may be asked to briefly hold your breath 1 or more times during the scan.

Before the scan, you may need to drink a contrast medium or dye, or you may get it as an IV (intravenous) injection. The dye helps lymph nodes and other tissues show up better on the scan. It will slowly pass through your system and exit through your bowel movements or in your urine. Some people have a brief warm feeling (flushing) through their body just after the dye injection. This is normal.

Before having a CT scan, tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had a reaction to contrast material in the past, such as hives or trouble breathing. Also tell him or her if you notice these reactions during the test.

MRI

This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of the uterus and other tissues in your pelvis and belly (abdomen). An MRI is used to see if cancer has grown into the wall of your uterus. MRI scans are used to look at the brain and spinal cord.

For this test, you lie still on the table as it passes through a long, narrow, tube-like scanner. Then the scanner directs a beam of radio waves at the area being examined. A computer uses the data from the radio waves to create a 3-D picture of the inside of your body. You may need more than 1 set of images. Each pass may take 2 to 15 minutes, so MRI may take an hour or more.

You may be injected with a dye before the scan. This can help show an even clearer look at what's happening inside your body. This test is painless. Ask for earplugs. They help block out the loud thumping noise during the scan. If you are claustrophobic, you may be given a sedative before having this test. 

PET scan

A PET scan can look at your entire body. Before this test, you either swallow or are injected with a mildly radioactive sugar (glucose). The PET scan will show where in your body the glucose is being used the most. This helps find active cells that are dividing quickly, such as cancer cells.

About an hour or so after you get the glucose, you’ll lie on a table that is pushed into the PET scanner. It will rotate around you and take pictures. Other than the injection, a PET scan is painless. Some people are sensitive to the substance, and may have nausea, a headache, or vomiting. Some newer machines can do PET and CT scans at the same time. Then areas that show up on the PET scan can be compared to the more detailed images of the CT scan.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray uses a small amount of radiation to make an image of the tissues inside your chest. This test can show if cancer has spread to the lungs. The test takes only a few minutes and is painless.

Blood tests

You may have blood tests, such as:

  • Complete blood count (CBC). This test may be done to find out if the bleeding often caused by endometrial cancer has caused you to be anemic. Anemia is a low red blood cell count.

  • Blood chemistry. These tests measure amounts of certain substances in the blood. These tests may be done so your doctor can see how well some of your organs are working, like your kidneys and liver.

  • CA 125.  This is a substance that many endometrial cancers release into the blood. Very high levels may indicate what kind of endometrial cancer is present or may be a sign that the cancer has spread beyond the uterus.

Working with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you’ll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Howard Goodman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.