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10 Facts About Gynecological Cancer

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Cancer Awareness

10 Facts About Gynecological Cancer

Dr Amita Mishra
Oncology / Cancer Care, Surgical Oncology
Oncology / Cancer Care, Surgical Oncology
Consultant - Gynecological Oncology

1. What is gynecologic cancer?

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs.While they are often discussed as a group, each gynecologic cancer is unique. Each has different signs, symptoms, and risk factors. The five main types of gynecologic cancer are: 

Cervical Cancer Begins in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (or womb). 
Ovarian Cancer  Begins in the ovaries, located on each side of the uterus
Uterine Cancer  Begins in the uterus, the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant. 
Vaginal Cancer Begins in the vagina, the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body. It is also called the birth canal. 
Vulvar Cancer  Begins in the vulva, the outer part of the female genital organs, which includes the inner and outer lips of the vagina, the clitoris, and the opening of the vagina and its glands. 


2. Who gets gynecologic cancer?

While all women are at risk for gynecologic cancer, this risk generally increases with age. 

3. What increases a woman’s risk of getting gynecologic cancer?

There is no way to know which women will get gynecologic cancer. Each specific type of gynecologic cancer has a unique set of risk factors. 

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections that do not go away increase the risk of getting several types of gynecologic cancers. HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is one of the most well-established risk factors for these three cancers.
  • Significant Family history of malignancy in family.

4. How can I help prevent gynecologic cancer or find it early?

While there is no known way to prevent all types of gynecologic cancer, there are things you can do that may help lower your chance of getting them or help to find them early. It is important to find gynecologic cancers early, when treatment can be most effective.

  • Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. In case of any abnormal vaginal bleeding for two weeks or longer talk to your doctor right away. Though the symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. For overall good health, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; exercise regularly; maintain a healthy weight; avoid smoking; and practice safe sex.
  • Get the HPV vaccine, if you are at an age when it is recommended. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls.
  • Get regular Pap tests. Pap tests (or Pap smears) are one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. Pap tests can find precancerous changes on the cervix that can be treated so that cervical cancer is prevented. A Pap test can also find cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective. The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer. Pap screening is done even if HPV vaccine has been taken. Also, it is important to consult a Gynaecologist for recommendations of pap testing.

Fact:The Pap test does NOT screen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers. Even if you have a Pap test regularly, see your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms that are not normal for you. 

5. What are the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancer?

Symptoms Cervical Cancer Ovarian Cancer Uterine Cancer Vaginal Cancer Vulvar Cancer
Abnormal Vaginal Discharge or Bleeding  Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Pelvic Pain or pressure   Yes Yes   Yes
Abdominal or Back Pain    Yes      
Bloating   Yes      
Changes in Bathroom Habits   Yes   Yes  
Itching or Burning of Vulva         Yes
Changes in Vulva color or skin such as a rash, sores or warts         Yes


6. What is staging and why do I need it?

 Cancer staging describes the size and extent of the disease in the body and whether it has spread from its original site to other parts of the body. To find out the stage of a gynecologic cancer, your doctor may perform several tests. These results:

• Will help the doctor develop the best possible treatment plan.

• Can be used to estimate the likely outcome or course of the disease. 

7. What are the types of cancer treatment?

 Different types and combinations of cancer treatment are possible, depending on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is diagnosed. Possible treatments include:

  • Surgery: A surgeon removes as much of the cancer as possible. The extent or possibility of surgery depends on the type of cancer, the stage, and the patient’s overall health.
  • Chemotherapy: A doctor uses drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. These drugs also can harm healthy cells, which may cause side effects. Side effects usually get better or go away when chemotherapy is over.
  • Radiation Therapy: A doctor uses high doses of radiation—high-energy rays—to kill cancer cells and stop them from spreading. Radiation therapy does not hurt while it is being given, but it can cause side effects.