Gynecologic Cancer

Cancers of the female reproductive system


By Vishal Ingole, Medical Research EditorLast modified: September 20, 2011



Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic Cancer


Gynecologic Oncology is the study and treatment of all gynecology related cancers.

What are Gynecologic Cancers?

It is a specialized field of medicine that deals with cancers of the female reproductive system including ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer and vaginal and vulvar cancer.


Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is cancer that starts in the endometrium (lining of the uterus).
Ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries.
Vaginal cancer is when malignant cancerous cells form in the vagina.
Uterine cancer is cancer in parts of the uterus.
Vulvar cancer is cancer in the external genitalia of women, the vulva.

Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancers


Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause, continuous vaginal discharge may indicate cervical or endometrial cancer, heavy and long lasting periods (cervical cancer), constipation or long lasting indigestion may be a symptom of ovarian cancer, HPV infection (Human Papilloma Virus infection) and lump in the vulva (vulvar cancer).

Symptoms of advanced cancer are severe back pain in cervical or ovarian cancer, fatigue (cervical cancer), heavy bleeding from vagina and/or excessive pelvic pain and significant amount of weight loss (cervical, ovarian cancer).

Causes of Gynecologic Cancers


Cervical cancer is caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection usually spread through sexual intercourse. Increased levels of estrogen may cause endometrial cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer. Gene defects may be held responsible for ovarian cancer. Dysplasia (growth of precancerous cells on vulvar skin) may lead to vulvar cancer.

Risk Factors in Gynecologic Cancer


Diabetes, use of estrogen replacement therapy, history of endometrial polyps, infertility, infrequent periods, and consumption of Tamoxifin (drug for breast cancer treatment), obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, early menstruation, late menopause and age are risk factors.

Tests and Diagnosis in Gynecologic Cancer


Pap smears may be used to screen for cancers and pre-cancers but do not amount to a final diagnosis. Colposcopy (using a lighted, magnifying instrument) and biopsy (removal of tissue and examination in lab) are used. X-rays are used to determine the spread of cancer, CT scans, cystoscopy which checks the bladder and urethra for abnormal areas, proctoscopy which inspects the rectum, MRI which involves obtaining images of the internal organs using radio waves, pelvic examinations and CA-125 blood test are other tests that are used for diagnosis of gynecologic cancers.

Treatments in Gynecologic Cancer


Treatment options include surgical procedures like cryotherapy (freezing abnormal cells), laser therapy, hysterectomy (removal of uterus), vaginectomy (removal of whole or part of vagina), pelvic exenterating (removal of lower colon, rectum and bladder) removal of ovaries (ovarian cancer), lymphadenectomy (removing lymph nodes) and pelvic surgery. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are other methods.

Prevention of Gynecologic Cancers


Cervical cancer can be prevented through a vaccine, Gardasil that prevents HPV infection. Practicing safe sex (using condoms), regular pelvic examinations, avoiding multiple sexual partners and getting regular pap smears can help prevent these cancers. Removal of ovaries in women with mutation in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may prevent ovarian cancer. Avoiding excessive smoking and use of alcohol may help prevent gynecologic cancers.


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