Advances in the management of endometrial adenocarcinoma. A review

J Reprod Med. 2002 Mar;47(3):173-89; discussion 189-90.


Endometrial adenocarcinoma is the most common and curable gynecologic neoplasm; the five-year survival for women with surgical stage I disease ranges from 83% to 93%; stage II, 73%; stage III, 52%; and stage IV, 27%. The absence of an asymptomatic latency phase amenable to detection through screening and the already excellent cure rates seen with early-stage disease have precluded the need for endometrial cancer screening programs. Adenocarcinomas constitute 97% of endometrial cancers, with endometrioid the most common histologic subtype. Two different pathways of endometrial carcinogenesis exist. One arises in a background of estrogen excess, giving rise to atypical hyperplasia as the malignant precursor of the more common endometrioid adenocarcinomas. The use of oral contraceptives has consistently been shown to decrease the risk of developing endometrial carcinoma via this pathway, with 12 months or more of continuous use decreasing the lifetime risk by 40-50%. The alternate pathway of endometrial carcinogenesis represents malignant transformation of atrophic endometrium and proceeds through endometrial intraepithelial carcinoma as the malignant precursor of the more virulent serous papillary and clear cell endometrial adenocarcinomas. The staging of endometrial cancer (according to the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology) is surgical. Recent studies suggest a therapeutic benefit associated with extensive retroperitoneal lymph node evaluation to determine the disease extent and thereby more effectively direct potentially life-saving adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant radiation therapy, known to have survival benefit in advanced-stage disease, may also have survival benefit in intermediate-risk surgical stage I disease on the basis of results recently released from a Gynecologic Oncology Group study. The use of radiation therapy, systemic chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, alone or in combination, is recommended for primary advanced and recurrent disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neoplasm Staging*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Risk Factors