Endometrial Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis
What tests might I have after being diagnosed?
After a diagnosis of endometrial cancer, you may have 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 can include:
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
Complete blood count (CBC)
CA 125 blood test
Some women with what seems to be low risk cancers may not need any of these tests.
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 the 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 a beam of X-rays at your body. A CT scan is painless. You may be asked to briefly hold your breath one or more times during the scan. You may need to drink a contrast medium or get it by an intravenous (IV) injection. The dye allows your doctor to better see lymph nodes and other tissues. It will gradually pass through your system and exit through your bowel movements or in your urine. Some people have a brief warm feeling (flushing) just after the injection. Tell your doctor if you have ever had a reaction to contrast material in the past, such as hives or trouble breathing. Tell your doctor if you have these reactions during the test.
This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of the uterus and other tissues in the pelvis. An MRI is used to see if cancer has grown into the wall of your uterus. MRI scans are also very useful for looking at the brain and spinal cord. For this test, you lie still on the table as it passes through a long, tube-like scanner. Then the scanner directs a beam of radio waves at the area being examines. 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 one set of images. Each pass may take 2 to 15 minutes, so that the whole experience may take an hour or more. You may be injected with a dye before the scan to help the doctors get an even clearer view of what's happening inside your body. This test is painless. Ask for earplugs if they aren't offered because there is a loud thumping noise during the scan. If you are claustrophobic, you may be given a sedative before having this test.
A PET scan can look at your entire body. For 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. You’ll lie still 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 image of the CT scan.
A chest X-ray uses a small amount of radiation to create an image of tissues inside your chest. This test can show if cancer has spread to the lungs. The test takes on a few minutes and is painless.
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.
CA 125. This is a substance that some endometrial cancers release into the blood. Very high levels 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.
October 12, 2017
Practice Bulletin Clinical Management Guidelines for Obstetrician Gynecologists Endometrial Cancer, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Goodman, Howard, MD,Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS