- Gynecologic cancer is a term used for cancer that occurs in women’s reproductive organs.
The type of cancers include . . .
Vulvar cancer: This cancer forms on the outer genitalia – most commonly affecting the outer vaginal lips (labia). Signs and symptoms may include—Itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva that does not go away. Changes in the color of the skin of the vulva. Bumps, sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva that do not go away. Pain in your pelvis, especially when you urinate or have sex.
Vagina cancer: Vaginal cancer is one of the rarest gynecologic cancers. It typically occurs in the lining of the vagina. Early on, there may be no symptoms, but if there are, they may include pelvic pain, change in bathroom habits or vaginal discharge or bleeding that is not normal to you.
Cervical: This is the most preventable cancer through screening pap and HPV. Cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms early on. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. With Pap test and HPV testing cervical cancer can be caught early.
Uterine/endometrial: uterine cancer forms in the tissues of the uterus. There are two types: endometrial and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer forms in the tissue of the endometrium – the lining of the uterus. Uterine sarcoma is a rare type that forms in the uterine muscles. Vaginal discharge or bleeding that is not normal for you is the most common presenting complaint.
Ovarian: There are three types of ovarian cancer in adults, 1. ovarian epithelial cancer, which begins in the tissue covering the ovary, lining of the fallopian tube, or the peritoneum; 2. ovarian germ cell tumors, which start in the egg or germ cells; and 3. ovarian low malignant potential tumors, which begin in the tissue covering the ovary. Ovarian cancer may cause bloating, vaginal bleeding, feeling full quickly, abdominal or back pain and change in bathroom habits.
Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD): GTD is a rare group of interrelated tumors that develop following conception that lead to abnormal development of the placenta. More than 80 percent of GTD cases are non-cancerous. The symptoms of GTD may resemble those of a normal pregnancy. They may also be similar to a spontaneous abortion, also called a miscarriage, or to an ectopic pregnancy.
Primary Peritoneal cancer: A close relative of epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common type of malignancy that affects the ovaries. The cause of primary peritoneal cancer is unknown, but it is important to know that even if your ovaries have been removed, you can get primary peritoneal cancer. Symptoms are similar to those ovarian cancer.
2. The HPV vaccination can be key to preventing gynecologic cancers (particularly vulvar, vagina and cervical), as it protects against types of HPV that are the most common cause of cancer.
3. Family and personal history are key to share with your doctor as they can identify if you are high risk for gynecologic cancers. This helps them guide you in risk reducing strategies.
Your OB-GYN should be able to answer any questions you have about gynecologic cancers. The Center for Disease Control recommends you take a list of questions to your next appointment.
Important questions to ask your OB-GYN include…
- What is my risk for developing gynecologic cancer?
- When should I have my next Pap test?
- What do my Pap test results mean?
- Is the HPV test right for me?
- Are there any other tests I should take given my and my family’s health history?
4. Obesity is a major risk factor for uterine, ovarian, breast and colon cancers. Talk to your doctor to develop your preventative care plan.
5. Some women with gynecologic cancers may have little , or no symptoms. Other times, symptoms like bloating, back pain or quickly feeling full while eating are difficult to recognize as being related to cancer. Talk to your doctor right away if you are experiencing menstrual bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause. If you have other symptoms, keep a diary and see your doctor if you have symptoms for two weeks or longer.
*This is for educational purposes only. This is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor medical questions as they pertain to your specific situation. Sources: ACOG, CDC
If you are in the DFW area, you can schedule an appointment at Sky Women’s Health.