Gynecologic cancer fact sheet
Your first line of defense against gynecologic cancers? Get informed. Knowing the facts can help you recognize the sometimes silent symptoms so treatment can begin in the earlier stages.
Approximately 70,500 women are diagnosed with gynecological cancer each year. The good news is that regular gynecologic screenings can find cancer early enough for treatment. Even better is that some cancers can be prevented altogether with simple vaccines and lifestyle changes.
What are the symptoms?
The signs and symptoms below are often related to gynecologic cancer. However, not all women with gynecologic cancer have the same symptoms. Additionally, sometimes symptoms are difficult to recognize because they may be caused by or related to other conditions.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Itching or burning of the vulva
- Changes in vulva color or skin
What should I ask my doctor?
Remember to discuss your risk factors with your doctor at every exam. If you show increased risk due to family history, DES exposure, HPV infection or other factors, you may need to be seen more often than the average annual screening.
- What is my risk?
- When should I have my next Pap test?
- What do my Pap test results mean?
- Is the HPV test right for me?
- When can I stop getting a Pap test?
- Are there any other gynecologic cancer tests that I need, based on my personal health and family cancer history? If so, what are they? Why do I need them? How do they work?
How can I prevent gynecologic cancer or find it early?
While there is no known way to prevent all types of gynecologic cancer, there are things you can do that may help lower your change of getting them or help to find them early. It is important to find gynecologic cancers early, when treatment can be most effective.
- Pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight
- Avoid smoking
- Practice safe sex
- Know your family history and share it with your doctor
- Get the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccine and test
- Get regular Pap tests
Types of gynecologic cancer
Gynecological cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five main types of gynecological cancer are: cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.
- Cervical Cancer
- Cervical cancer starts in the cervix and occurs most often in women over 40. It is the most common gynecologic cancer, and some types can be prevented by HPV vaccine. Regular Pap tests aid in early detection.
- Ovarian Cancer
- Ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries, which are the female reproductive organs that produce eggs. Symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague. It is the fifth most common cancer in women.
- Uterine Cancer
- The uterus is made up of different tissue types that can lead to different kinds of uterine cancer, the most common being endometrial cancer. Usually, uterine cancer occurs after menopause. Abnormal bleeding is a common symptom.
- Vaginal Cancer
- The vagina connects the vulva to the cervix. Cancer of the vagina is rare and has high survival rates. HPV can increase your risk of vaginal cancer.
- Vulvar Cancer
- The vulva is the female external genitalia. Vulvar cancer is a relatively rare diagnosis, representing about 5% of all gynecologic cancers. It usually appears as a lesion, so regular gynecologic exams aid in early detection.