After uterine sarcoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the uterus or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the uterus or to other
parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the
staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know
the stage in order to plan treatment. The following
procedures may be used in the staging process:
- Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that makes it.
- CA 125 assay: A test that measures the level of CA 125 in the blood. CA 125 is a substance released by cells into the bloodstream. An increased CA 125 level is sometimes a sign of cancer or other condition.
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
- Transvaginal ultrasound exam: A procedure used to examine the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and bladder. An ultrasound transducer (probe) is inserted into the vagina and used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. The doctor can identify tumors by looking at the sonogram.
Transvaginal ultrasound. An ultrasound probe connected to a computer is inserted into the vagina and is gently moved to show different organs. The probe bounces sound waves off internal organs and tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture).
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen and pelvis, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues to show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Cystoscopy. A cystoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing) is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. Fluid is used to fill the bladder. The doctor looks at an image of the inner wall of the bladder on a computer monitor.
Uterine sarcoma may be diagnosed, staged, and treated in the same surgery.
Surgery is used to diagnose, stage, and treat uterine sarcoma. During this surgery, the doctor removes as much of the cancer as possible. The following procedures may be used to diagnose, stage, and treat uterine sarcoma:
Treatment in addition to surgery may be given, as described in the section of this summary.
- Laparotomy: A surgical procedure in which an incision (cut) is made in the wall of the abdomen to check the inside of the abdomen for signs of disease. The size of the incision depends on the reason the laparotomy is being done. Sometimes organs are removed or tissue samples are taken and checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
- Abdominal and pelvic washings: A procedure in which a saline solution is placed into the abdominal and pelvic body cavities. After a short time, the fluid is removed and viewed under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
- Total abdominal hysterectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the uterus and cervix through a large incision (cut) in the abdomen.
Hysterectomy. The uterus is surgically removed with or without other organs or tissues. In a total hysterectomy, the uterus and cervix are removed. In a total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy, (a) the uterus plus one (unilateral) ovary and fallopian tube are removed; or (b) the uterus plus both (bilateral) ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed. In a radical hysterectomy, the uterus, cervix, both ovaries, both fallopian tubes, and nearby tissue are removed. These procedures are done using a low transverse incision or a vertical incision.
- Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Surgery to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes.
- Lymphadenectomy: A surgical procedure in which lymph nodes are removed and checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. For a regional lymphadenectomy, some of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed. For a radical lymphadenectomy, most or all of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed. This procedure is also called lymph node dissection.
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
- Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
- Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
- Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.
Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if uterine sarcoma spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually uterine sarcoma cells. The disease is metastatic uterine sarcoma, not lung cancer.
- Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
- Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
The following stages are used for uterine sarcoma:
In stage I, cancer is found in the uterus only. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB, based on how far the cancer has spread.
In stage II, cancer has spread into connective tissue of the cervix, but has not spread outside the uterus.
In stage III, cancer has spread beyond the uterus and cervix, but has not spread beyond the pelvis. Stage III is divided into stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC, based on how far the cancer has spread within the pelvis.
In stage IV, cancer has spread beyond the pelvis.
Stage IV is divided into stages IVA and IVB, based on how far the cancer has spread.