While all women are at risk for developing gynecologic cancers, few will ever develop one. It is important to know the signs and symptoms because there is no way to know for sure who will get gynecologic cancer.
In developing countries like India, a significant proportion of patients are unable to access and avail of complete preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic means due to lack of organized screening, awareness, inadequate healthcare services, and financing.
To reduce the current burden of gynecological cancer in low- and medium-resource countries, attention should be focused on the formulation and translation of appropriate cancer control policies and investments in human resource development, awareness creation, and healthcare infrastructure.
Let’s understand more about what they are and why we need to talk about them, as explained by Dr. Nupur Gupta, Founder Well Woman Clinic & Director Department of Obstetrics
What is Gynecologic Cancer?
Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs i.e. in the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva.
While all women are at risk for gynecologic cancer, this risk generally increases with age.
What are the symptoms of gynecologic cancer?
The symptoms shown below are often related to gynecologic cancer-
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding in a woman who has gone through menopause, between periods, after sex.
- Changes in your normal bowel or bladder patterns
If you have any of the above signs and symptoms for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you, the only way to ensure that this is cancer or not is to see a doctor. However, not all women with gynecologic cancer have the same symptoms.
What are the recommendations for early detection and screening?
Early detection refers to testing to find a disease such as cancer in people who do not have symptoms of that disease.
- Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer begins in the uterus, there are no early detection tests recommended for women without symptoms. If one is at increased risk, see their doctor for a routine yearly exam and whenever there is any abnormal uterine bleeding.
- Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries, located on each side of the uterus. Currently, there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it can be very hard to identify
ovarian cancer early. Ovarian Tests such as a routine pelvic exam, ultrasound may be performed if a woman is at high risk for ovarian cancer.
- Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer in an early-stage may not cause signs and symptoms. In later stages, cervical cancer may cause abnormal or irregular bleeding especially after sex, or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you.
If you have unusual bleeding or discharge, see a doctor. The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective screening tests available for cervical cancer.
- Vulva Cancer
Vulva Cancer begins in the vulva, the outer part of the female genital organs, which includes the clitoris, and the opening of the vagina and its glands. Having routine pelvic exams and being alert to any signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer greatly improves the chances of early detection and successful treatment.
- Vaginal Cancer
It is mostly diagnosed in older women which begins in the vagina between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body. To find vaginal cancer early one can get regular checkups and see a doctor if you have any signs or symptoms, such as lumps or changes in the vagina.
While there is no way to know which women will get gynecologic cancer and there is no known way to prevent gynecologic cancer, there are certain things you can do that may help lower your chance of getting them or help to find them early
If you have any abnormal vaginal bleeding, or if you have any other symptoms of gynecologic cancer and they are not normal for you, talk to a doctor right away.
Opting for healthy lifestyle choices can harm no one. For overall good health, eat a rich nutritious diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking, and practice safe sex.