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Knowing the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers

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At AdventHealth, our physicians specializing in gynecologic cancers are skilled in advanced minimally invasive surgery, as well as more advanced procedures for progressive diseases.

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.

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.

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.

Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that about 79 million Americans currently have, but there is no way to know which people who have HPV will 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.

Annual Wellness visit

Women are also encouraged to get regular Pap tests at their OB/GYN office. Cervical cancer can be detected by a Pap test and help your care provider find any precancerous cells or cancerous cells, so you know if any next steps for treatment are necessary.

In addition to regular Pap tests, women should also get a pelvic exam. While the Pap test screens for cervical cancer, a full pelvic exam can give you and your physician insight on any other potential malignancies, like ovarian cancer or other cancers and conditions. Whatever your diagnosis may be, the key to successful outcomes is early detection.

Kansas City’s most trusted gynecologic cancer team

From our 24-hour turnaround times for newly diagnosed patients to state-of-the-art procedures, you can count on KC’s leading gynecologic cancer care team at AdventHealth to be with you every step of the way. Learn more at CancerCareKC.com