Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. There are five types of gynecologic cancer: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.
Cancer Prevention & Detection:
Gynecologic cancers start in a woman’s cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, vulva, or rarely, fallopian tubes. You can take steps to prevent some of these cancers:
• Pap tests can find abnormal cells that may turn into cervical cancer. Removal of the abnormal cells prevents cervical cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when the chance of being cured is very high.
• The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available for girls and women who are 9 to 26 years old. The HPV vaccine protects against most types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.
• In addition to the Pap test, the HPV test may be used for screening women who are 30 years old or older, or at any age for those who have unclear Pap test results.
• A pelvic exam performed by a physician during a yearly checkup is necessary each year to determine whether or not a woman has ovarian cancer or uterine cancer. Other possible diagnostic tests include biopsies, ultrasounds and blood tests.
There is no way to know for sure if you will get a gynecologic cancer. That’s why it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you, so you can recognize the warning signs or symptoms of gynecologic cancer. Know some common symptoms of gynecologic cancers, which include abdominal swelling or bloating, pelvic pressure or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and/or urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often). If you think you have any of those warning signs, talk to your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional right away. However, symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, so the only way to confirm is to see a doctor.
If you are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, see an oncologist who has been trained to treat cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. The doctor will explain that there are a variety of treatment options available depending on your stage at diagnosis.