Uterine Sarcoma: Risk Factors

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Risk factors for a certain type of cancer might include smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. The exact cause of someone’s cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer.

Things you should know about risk factors for cancer: 

  • Risk factors can increase a person's risk, but they don't always cause the disease.

  • Some people with 1 or more risk factors never develop cancer. Other people with cancer have no known risk factors.

  • Some risk factors are very well known and others are not. There's ongoing research about risk factors for many types of cancer.

Some risk factors, such as family history, may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change. Knowing about cancer risk factors can help you make choices that might lower your risk. For instance, if an unhealthy diet is a risk factor, you may choose to eat healthy foods. If excess weight is a risk factor, your healthcare provider may help you lose weight.

Who is at risk for uterine sarcoma?

Risk factors for uterine sarcoma include:

  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis. Women who had radiation treatment for another cancer in the pelvis are at higher risk for uterine sarcoma. Radiation damages healthy cells, which may make cancer develop later. When cancers do start because of this exposure, it tends to happen 5 to 25 years after the radiation treatment.

  • Being African American. African-American women are at higher risk than other women. Healthcare providers don't know why.

  • Having had retinoblastoma. This is a type of eye cancer caused by an abnormal gene. Women who've had it are at higher risk for uterine sarcoma. 

What are your risk factors?

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for uterine sarcoma and what you can do about them. There are no screening tests for uterine sarcoma for women who don’t have symptoms. But regular pelvic exams and Pap tests can help find problems.

If your healthcare provider thinks you are at high risk, you might be checked for uterine sarcoma in 1 of these ways:

  • Endometrial sampling. Your healthcare provider takes a small sample of cells from the lining of your uterus. This sample is also called an endometrial biopsy. It can usually be done in the healthcare provider's office. To do it, your provider puts a thin flexible tube through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus. Suction is then used to take out some cells through this tube. The cells are sent to a lab and checked for cancer. Another test called a dilation and curettage (D&C) is sometimes used to take larger endometrial samples. This is usually done in the operating room. Medicines are used to make you sleep and not feel pain. Endometrial sampling is not as good at finding uterine sarcoma as it is for finding endometrial cancer. 

  • Transvaginal ultrasound. A wand-like probe is put into your vagina to do this test. The probe sends out sound waves that echo off the walls of your uterus and other pelvic organs. A computer turns these sound waves into images on a screen. In this way, your healthcare provider can see pictures of the inside of your uterus and the muscle wall of the uterus. The pictures may show if there's a tumor.

These tests are not always accurate. It’s possible that your healthcare provider may not be able to find cancer, even if it’s there. It’s also possible that it might look like you have cancer when you don’t. If needed, more tests might be done to be sure. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Howard Goodman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
© 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.