A Comprehensive Guide to Gynecologic Cancers

Feb 28, 2024 | Blog

The possibility of cancer is never a welcome thought, and oftentimes we do our best to shun it from our minds completely. But giving it at least some of our attention is the very thing that winds up saving lives. With a little background knowledge, you can be an active participant in your own prevention or early detection efforts.  

Since gynecologic cancers are less common than breast, colon, and other types of cancer, their symptoms are more likely to go overlooked. Take the time to learn about the risks and warning signs here.

Gynecologic Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of gynecologic cancer can vary by type. There are five main categories:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Uterine (endometrial) cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

For example, vulvar cancer can present as surprising or uncomfortable changes in your vulva, including shifts in coloration, pain, itching, burning,  a rash, sore, or warts. Symptoms you won’t experience with vulvar cancer are abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge, although those can be indicators of other types of gynecologic cancers. 

Other possible warning signs of gynecologic cancer can include changes in urination, constipation, and pelvic pain or pressure. And difficulty eating, bloating, and increased feelings of fullness are unique signs to look out for in terms of ovarian cancer. 

Having any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but they do always warrant a call to your gynecologist for further investigation.

What Are the Causes of Gynecologic Cancer?

As with most cancers, the causes of gynecologic cancer can’t always be pinpointed. While up to 99% cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), other types of gynecologic cancer have various causes. Family history, age, and obesity are important risk factors. 

While some of these factors are beyond your control to change, preventative gynecology can help you stay proactive against cervical cancer. If you haven’t already been vaccinated against HPV, for example, our providers can find out if you’re eligible for the shot. Either way, you’ll want to continue visiting our office for your annual exam and to receive routine Pap tests.

Gynecologic Cancer Treatment

The Pap test is one of the most important components of preventative gynecological care, because it’s currently the only routine test that can screen for cervical cancer. Oftentimes, abnormal Pap test results are the first sign that cervical cancer may develop, as this swabbing method can reveal cancerous or precancerous cells in your cervix. If further testing confirms the presence of precancerous cells, the affected tissue can be removed via a loop electrosurgical extraction procedure (LEEP). 

Although there aren’t currently any screening methods available for other types of gynecologic cancer, diagnostic measures can be used should symptoms develop. Doctors may use a variety of methods, including blood tests, biopsies, and medical imaging to detect these diseases, and the earlier they’re performed, the better, so speak to your gynecologist as soon as unusual symptoms are persistent. 

Treatment for gynecologic cancer is determined based on the disease’s location and extent. For cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be performed. Additional treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be recommended to prevent or treat the cancer’s spread

Schedule Your Annual Gynecologic Exam Today

Gynecologic cancers are scary to think about, but keeping up with preventive care is one of the best ways to prevent these and other serious illnesses. If you’re due for an annual exam or you have any concerns to discuss, schedule a visit with one of our providers through our online scheduler or talk to one of our team members by calling 770-487-9604.

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