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Overview of gynecologic cancers

  • 04.18.2015

Cervical Cancer

January is National Cervical Cancer Screening Month so it is a good time to look at the symptoms and treatments for cervical cancer, as well as other gynecologic cancers. 

CERVICAL CANCER

ENDOMETRIAL CANCER

OVARIAN CANCER

UTERINE CANCER

VAGINAL CANCER

VULVAR CANCER

 

CERVICAL CANCER

In 2013, there were 12,340 new cases of invasive cervical cancer and 4,030 deaths.

Cervical cancer begins in the cells lining the cervix. Pre-cancer cells can take many years to become cancer, but if detected by a Pap test and treated, cancer can be prevented.

Increases risk:

  • Having HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Being at midlife (younger than 50)
  • Smoking
  • Having HIV infection and other immune system weaknesses
  • Having Chlamydia infection
  • Diets low in fruit and vegetables
  • Being overweight
  • Long-term use of birth control pills
  • Having three or more full-term pregnancies
  • Being younger than 17 at first pregnancy

Prevention:

Pap test - Most cervical cancer can be prevented by finding pre-cancers through a Pap test and then treating.

HPV vaccine - Doctors believe that a woman must be infected by HPV before she develops cervical cancer. Vaccines have been developed that prevent most HPV infection.

Signs/symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex

Treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Female Reproductive System - SNCC

UTERINE CANCER

 

Uterine cancer or uterine sarcoma is a cancer of the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus. Non-cancerous tumors known as fibroid tumors can also develop in the uterus. Most of the time, these tumors require no treatment.

In 2013, about 49,560 new cases of cancer of the uterine corpus will be diagnosed and 8,190 women will die from it.

Increases risk:

  • Pelvic radiation (from previous cancer treatment)
  • Race: Twice as common in African-American women as in white or Asian women
  • Having an eye cancer called retinoblastoma

Because of the risk factors, uterine cancer cannot be prevented and no screening tests exist for those asymptomatic.

Signs/symptoms:

  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain/mass

Treatment options:

There are four basic types of treatment for women with uterine sarcoma:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy

Treatment For Cancer - SNCC

ENDOMETRIAL CANCER

Endometrial cancer starts in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. It is typically caused by conditions that affect estrogen levels.About 49,560 new cases of endometrial cancer were diagnosed in 2013 and about 8,190 died as a result.

Increases risk:

  • Estrogen therapy to treat menopause without progesterone
  • Having more menstrual cycles during a woman's lifetime
  • Obesity
  • Ovarian tumor, breast or ovarian cancer
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Risk increases with age
  • High-fat diet
  • Having diabetes
  • Family history
  • Prior pelvic radiation therapy
  • Endometrial hyperplasia

Lowers risk:

  • Using birth control pills
  • Having multiple pregnancies
  • Using an IUD

Signs/symptoms

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or other discharge
  • Pelvic pain or mass
  • Weight loss

Treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Chemotherapy

VULVAR CANCER

The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. Vulvar cancer most often affects the inner edges of the labia majora or the labia minora.In 2013, about 4,700 cancers of the vulva will be diagnosed with 990 attributable deaths.

Increases risk:

  • Age - more than half the cases in women over 70
  • Having human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Smoking
  • HIV infection
  • Having other genital cancers
  • Having melanoma elsewhere on body

As with cervical cancer, getting the HPV vaccine provides significant protection against vulvar cancer.

Signs/symptoms:

  • Red, pink, or white bumps with a wart-like or raw surface
  • Persistent itching
  • Pain, burning, painful urination, bleeding or discharge
  • Persistent open sore
  • Change in mole
  • Distinct mass

Treatment options:

Vulvar pre-cancers (vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia or VIN) can treated with topical therapy. The three main types of treatment used for patients with vulvar cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy   

VAGINAL CANCER

Vaginal cancer is rare, accounting for only 1 of every 100 cancers of the female reproductive system.

About 2,890 new cases of vaginal cancer were diagnosed in the US in 2013 and 840 women died from this cancer.

Increases risk:

  • Age – over half the cases are in women over 70 years
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – women who's mother took the drug are at increased risk
  • Having vaginal adenosis or HPV
  • Having cervical cancer
  • Smoking
  • Having HIV

Signs/symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (often after intercourse)
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Mass that can be felt
  • Pain during intercourse

Treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Other treatments are available to treat pre-cancers of the vagina:

  • Laser surgery (vaporization)
  • Topical treatments 

OVARIAN CANCER

Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women (not counting skin cancer). It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women.

About 22,440 new cases of ovarian cancer are estimted to be diagnosed in 2017 and 14,080 women will die from the disease.

Increases risk:

  • Age: half of all cases are in women over 63
  • Obesity
  • Use of fertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid®) for longer than one year, especially if no pregnancy took place
  • Taking male hormone androgens
  • Taking estrogen after menopause
  • Family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer

Lowers risk:

  • Having children
  • Using birth control
  • Having tubal litigation

Signs/symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes
  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss

Treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy

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