Gynecologic cancers may affect any of the reproductive organs. They are the 4th most common type of cancer and affect 1 in 20 women.
While we are not oncologists, we will be able to help you navigate through the diagnosis and treatment of a gynecologic cancer. Often your general gynecologist will be the physician who is involved in the original diagnosis. You will be referred to a gynecologic oncologist for specialized treatment, but we will continue to be your general gynecologist and often will be the person who will provide you with medical and emotional guidance during this worrisome time.
Cervical cancer is an abnormality in the cells that line the cervix. It may spread to adjoining tissue or other parts of the body. It is often associated with Human Papilloma Virus. We will screen you for HPV and abnormal pap smears as part of your routine care. If diagnosed early, the cure rate for cervical cancer may be as high as 90%. Treatment with HPV vaccine offers protection against some types of high risk HPV.
Uterine cancer affects the lining and the muscle of the uterus. In the United States it is the most common type of gynecologic cancer and occurs in about 2% of all women. The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal bleeding.
Women at increased risk for uterine cancer are:
- Have irregular periods or no periods
- Have other types of cancers such as breast, colon or ovarian.
- Have taken Tamoxifen
- Have no children
- Have Diabetes
- Take Unopposed Estrogen
- Have endometrial hyperplasia
Cancer of the ovaries may involve one or both ovaries. It is found most often between the ages of 50 and 75. There are generally little or no symptoms in early stages. The key to managing ovarian cancer is early detection. If you have unexplained changes in your body such as abnormal bleeding, unexplained pain and swelling of the abdomen or pelvic/abdominal discomfort, you should discuss these changes with your doctor. Most of the time they have a benign cause, but they should be thoroughly explored.
Women with children are less likely to have ovarian cancer, as are those who use oral contraceptives.
Risk factors include:
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Few or no children
- Late childbearing
- Long-term use of fertility drugs
Cancer of the vulva is actually a type of skin cancer. It is unusual but does occur and the frequency increases after the age of 60. The best way to screen for vulvar cancer is by doing regular self-exams. Tell your doctor about any changes in the genital area such as redness, bumps or changes in the skin color. Over 90% of these cancers will be cured if diagnosed early.
Risk factors include:
- Mother took DES
- Long-term steroid use