There is interest in trying to reduce the morbidity from endometrial cancer through early detection, and there has been interest in using endovaginal ultrasound as a method to screen women to detect endometrial cancer.
In a prospective, observational study of 304 women using tamoxifen over 6 years, women underwent annual endovaginal ultrasound screening; women with abnormal ultrasound findings and women who were symptomatic with bleeding all underwent endometrial biopsy. Thirty-two percent of the ultrasound examinations had associated significant uterine abnormalities identified that required further medical or surgical investigation and treatment. However, most abnormalities (80%) represented benign polyps for which no treatment was needed. Six cases of primary endometrial cancer were detected, and all cases presented with irregular bleeding. The sensitivity of ultrasound was only 63.3%, with a specificity of 60.4%, and had a low positive predictive value for cancer of only 1%.
Other reports have noted similar results. Routine ultrasound surveillance in asymptomatic women using tamoxifen is not useful because of its low specificity and low positive predictive value. Evaluation of the endometrium in women taking tamoxifen should be limited to women symptomatic with vaginal bleeding.
Sonohysterography (hydrosonography) is a diagnostic test among asymptomatic women, and is able to separate space occupying endometrial lesions from an abnormal endometrial-myometrial junction in order to help guide biopsies. There is no evidence that routine screening sonohysterography will confer clinical benefit.
Endometrial sampling in women with uterine bleeding
In the setting of abnormal uterine bleeding, endometrial sampling has gained favor largely as an alternative to more invasive procedures such as fractional D&C. Several methods of biopsy exist (e.g., Pipelle, Tao Brush, and Uterine Explora Curette) to identify endometrial pathology. Although endometrial sampling has largely replaced D&C as the first choice in the evaluation of women with bleeding, issues of access to the endometrial cavity and sampling error limit the clinical significance of a negative result. In the Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination trial, 36% of biopsies had insufficient tissue for diagnosis.
No studies have evaluated the use of endometrial sampling as routine screening in reducing endometrial cancer mortality.