What Is Gynecologic Cancer?
Gynecologic cancers develop from the female reproductive organs; the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina and vulva. Cancers develop when malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of one of these organs.
TYPES OF GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS
Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in women. The endometrium is the layer of tissue lining the uterus, which is the organ where women carry babies. The endometrium can develop abnormal and cancerous cells. Risk factors for endometrial cancer include being female, increasing age, obesity, some medications taken for breast cancer treatment, excess estrogen exposure, and some inherited genetic syndromes such as Lynch syndrome.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world and is the third most common gynecologic cancer in the United States. It is less common than endometrial cancer in the U.S. Cervical cancer is frequently diagnosed in women ages 35-45 but can be found earlier or later in life.
Common symptoms of endometrial or cervical cancer may include:
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Bleeding with intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Some patients may have pain in the pelvic area or pain with sexual intercourse
Common symptoms of vaginal or vulvar cancer may include:
- A mass or lump
- Pain or tenderness
- Patients may also have pelvic pain, or pain with sexual intercourse
Cervical cancer screening is recommended for female patients from 21 to 65 years of age. Screening for cervical cancer includes a Pap smear, often with HPV testing. Abnormal tests require additional workup. If cancer is found, treatment depends on the stage of the cervical tumor.
Cervical cancer is preventable. Over 95% of cervical cancers are related to HPV infections and are largely preventable with HPV vaccination. Vaccination is approved for men and women between 9 and 45 years of age. Researchers from the United Kingdom recently reported that cervical cancer rates declined by 87% for patients vaccinated at 12-13 years of age. Vaccination also prevents pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, which often require surgical intervention. If you or a family member have not been vaccinated for HPV, talk to your doctor about the possibility of vaccination to reduce and possibly prevent the risk of developing cancer.
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