Providers use a variety of tests to determine if a woman has developed uterine cancer. Those tests include pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds, and of course, biopsies.
During a pelvic exam, the provider examines the woman’s vagina, uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum. In order to examine the upper part of the vagina and the cervix, the provider opens the vagina using a device called a speculum. This allows for a visual inspection and provides the opportunity to perform additional tests, such as cultures or a Pap test. During the pelvic exam, the provider will feel the uterus, checking for any lumps or changes in its size or shape. Although a Pap test is often conducted as part of a pelvic exam, it is not designed to detect uterine cancer. However, in some cases, a Pap test may reveal signs of a previously undiagnosed uterine cancer.
A transvaginal ultrasound is used to provide an image of the uterus. During a transvaginal ultrasound, the provider inserts a special wand into the vagina. This instrument emits high frequency sound waves aimed at the uterus. The sound waves bounce back to the wand and are used to form a picture that helps the provider identify abnormalities in the uterus.
A uterine biopsy is used to remove suspicious tissue from the uterus for testing. When performing a biopsy, instruments are usually passed through the vagina into the uterus and a sample of tissue is removed from the uterine lining. A pathologist examines the tissue to check for cancer cells, hyperplasia, and other conditions. For a short time after the biopsy, some women have cramps and vaginal bleeding.
These tests, or frequently a combination of these tests, can help your provider determine if uterine cancer is present. With an early diagnosis, your provider can refer you to the proper specialists, and you can move forward with the most effective treatment plan.