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Early detection can mean the difference between a treatable illness and a life-ending illness

From AdventHealth

As with other types of cancers, early detection is the key to beating the disease. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for, and following up on annual screenings, can help save your life. “Early detection can mean the difference between a treatable illness and a life-ending illness, so it’s important to stay up to date on your screenings,” says Dr. Nathalie McKenzie, director of the gynecologic oncology fellowship at AdventHealth Cancer Institute

Types of Gynecologic Cancer

A cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs is considered gynecologic cancer, of which there are five main types:

Cervical Cancer

This type of cancer begins in a woman’s cervix — the lower, narrow end of the uterus.

Ovarian Cancer

On each side of the uterus there are ovaries, and this type of cancer begins there.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer begins in the uterus, and the uterus is the organ in a woman’s pelvis where a baby grows if she becomes pregnant.

Vaginal Cancer

The hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body is called the vagina, where vaginal cancer begins.

Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer initiates in the vulva, which is the outer part of a woman’s genital organs.

Signs and Symptoms 

While many signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancer can overlap, it’s important to know the warning signs that may require medical attention. If you have any of the symptoms listed below for more than two weeks or if you have abnormal bleeding, please see your OB/GYN immediately. “Sometimes you may experience a symptom and think about waiting to see if it goes away on its own. It may, but it’s always best to discuss any changes with you physician,” Dr. McKenzie explains.

Symptoms

Cervical Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

Uterine Cancer

Vaginal Cancer

Vulvar Cancer

Abnormal vaginal discharge

x

x

x

x

Pelvic pain or pressure

x

x

x

Abdominal or back pain

x

Bloating

x

Changes in bathroom habits

x

x

Itching or burning

X

Changes in vulvar color or skin

X

Abnormal vaginal bleeding

x

x

x

x

Risk Factors and Screening Options

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no way to know for sure if you will get a gynecologic cancer. About 15% of ovarian cancer diagnoses are found to be hereditary, meaning there is a family history. So, if there are links to ovarian cancer in your family, it’s especially important to regularly follow up with your care provider and make them aware of the family link.  Many cancers are associated with lifestyle choices. Let us help you reduce your risk. Find out about ways we are helping patients get healthier sooner than later.

Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. HPV is a very common infection mostly transmitted through intimate contact that about 79 million Americans currently have, but there is no way to know which of the people who have HPV might develop cancer later on.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteens (aged 11 to 12) and it prevents new HPV infections, as well as protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer. Pap smears remain important however, even after HPV vaccination.

You deserve expert care

Our physicians are recognized international leaders in the field of gynecologic oncology and continue to set new standards in surgery and chemotherapy that shape the future of gynecologic cancer treatment. To learn more about providers and services at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, click here.

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