Gynecologic cancers are malignant disorders that begin in the reproductive organs of a woman. They arise in different places within the pelvis, which encompasses the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones.
It’s important to be aware of the life-threatening consequences of these diseases. According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), “all women with reproductive organs are susceptible to developing one of the seven gynecologic cancers,” with the exception of those who have undergone a full hysterectomy—a surgical operation to remove all or a portion of the uterus. Understand your body, uncover the facts, and know your risk.
1. Gynecologic cancer is an umbrella term for different malignancies that develop in women’s reproductive organs.
The types of gynecologic cancers include:
- Cervical cancer. This cancer occurs when the cells inside and outside the cervix mutate. Cervical cancer is one of the most common gynecologic malignancies, and it is often preventable through annual screenings and routine check-ups.
- Ovarian cancer. This cancer has three subgroups, including germ cell (begins in cells that produce eggs in the ovaries), stromal cell (begins in cells that produce female hormones), and epithelial cancer (begins in cells that line the ovaries or fallopian tubes).
- Uterine cancer. Cells growing and multiplying too fast on the lining of the uterus causes this malignant disease. The most common diagnosis of uterine cancer is endometrial carcinoma. The risk metastasis (cancer spreading to either nearby or distant areas of the body) for uterine and endometrial cancer is high.
- Vaginal cancer. This cancer is one of the rarest forms of gynecologic cancer. It typically originates in the lining of the vagina. Receiving the HPV vaccination plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing vaginal cancer.
- Vulvar cancer. This malignant disorder is unique compared to other gynecologic cancers because it emerges on the outside of the labia or genitalia. However, similar to vaginal cancer, getting the HPV vaccine minimizes the chances of developing vulvar cancer.
- Peritoneal cancer. This cancer is a relative of ovarian epithelial cancer and presents very few warning signs. In this disease, the cells in the peritoneum—a thin layer of tissue enveloping the stomach—mutate into cancer cells.
- Fallopian tube cancer. A seventh type of gynecologic cancer is the rare fallopian tube cancer or tubal cancer. The University of California San Francisco estimates that around 300 to 400 women become diagnosed with the condition in the United States each year.
2. Some gynecologic cancers present very few to no symptoms.
“Women with gynecologic cancers do not always experience the same symptoms, and some experience little to no symptoms at all,” explained the NFCR. In some cases, symptoms such as back pain, bloating, weight loss, or feeling full without eating are difficult to conclude as a sign of gynecologic cancer since they can result from less serious conditions.
The seven different gynecologic cancers can present different symptoms. For instance, ovarian cancer usually has the most warnings, including persistent constipation, abnormal bleeding, and pain. Meanwhile, cervical cancer—otherwise known as the “silent killer”—tends to manifest itself through irregular vaginal discharge or menstrual bleeding. Consult a doctor right away if you are experiencing bleeding between periods, after menopause, or following intercourse, as well as if you have encountered other symptoms of gynecologic cancer for two weeks or longer. Read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s complete list of symptoms here.
3. Some gynecologic cancers are hereditary.
A 2016 study revealed that about 10 percent of ovarian cancers and 5 percent of endometrial cancers are attributed to a genetic predisposition. What’s more, Lynch syndrome and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome account for most inherited gynecologic cancers.
4. You shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask your OB-GYN some questions.
It is your doctor or OB-GYN’s duty to answer the questions you have about gynecologic cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends creating a list of questions to ask your OB-GYN prior to your upcoming appointment. These should include:
- How likely am I to develop gynecologic cancer?
- When am I having my next Pap test?
- What do the results of my Pap test mean?
- Is the HPV test right for me?
- Will the HPV vaccination benefit me?
- Are there other tests I should take considering mine and my family’s health history?
5. Cancer of the cervix used to be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States.
In the last four decades, there has been a significant reduction in the number of deaths from cervical cancer. Medical researchers and oncologists associate this decline in mortality rates to women getting regular Pap smears and screenings.
6. Doctors can detect gynecologic cancers early with a regular Pap smear and HPV testing.
Healthcare professionals advise women aged 21 and over to undergo a Pap test annually. The test entails taking a sample of cervical cells to evaluate for precancerous biomarkers. It helps detect cancer early, which is the stage when treatment is most effective. This procedure, however, does not test for vulvar, vaginal, uterine, tubal, or ovarian cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cervical malignancies and some vulvar and vaginal cancers. Although the main purpose of an HPV test is to search for infection, doctors can use it in combination with a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Furthermore, an HPV test works as a secondary examination when the results from a Pap test are unclear.
7. There are more treatment options for gynecologic cancer than you think.
Here at New Hope Unlimited, our oncologist, aftercare specialist, and other cancer care experts work together in a multidisciplinary team to create a truly comprehensive and individualized treatment plan against gynecologic malignancies. Our unique combination of conventional and holistic cancer treatments penetrates the root of cancer with minimal short- and long-term side effects, and thereby stimulating the spontaneous regression of tumors and reversing the symptoms of cancer. Contact us now to schedule your consultation and discover alternatives to harmful cancer therapies.