Gynecologic cancer

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that occurs in the organs of the female reproductive system, located in the pelvic area below the stomach and between the hips. Cancers are differentiated according to the area of the body in which they are generated. Within the gynecological cancer, we can differentiate five types:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Each type of gynecological cancer has different causes, treatment and prevention strategies.

Symptoms of gynecological cancer

Each type of gynecological cancer has different signs, symptoms and risk factors:

  • Cervical cancer.
    – Bleeding outside of menstruation
    – Heavy vaginal discharge with small amounts of blood.
    – Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
    – Abdominal pain and lower back discomfort.
  • Ovarian cancer.
    – Discomfort in the lower abdominal area, similar to indigestion.
    – Pelvic pain.
    – Anemia and weight loss.
    – Tiredness, lack of appetite.
    – Increased body hair as a result of altered hormones.
  • Cancer of the uterus.
    – Bleeding outside of menstruation.
    – Abundant and bloody vaginal fluid.
    – Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
  • Vaginal cancer.
    – Bleeding outside of menstruation.
    – Back and/or pelvic pain.
    – Pain when urinating.
    – Lumps in the vagina.
  • Vulvar cancer.
    – Burning or bleeding at the vulva.
    – Redder or paler than normal color.
    – Appearance of warts or rash-like irritation in the area.
    – Non-healing sores, bumps or ulcers.
    – Pain in the pelvic area with intercourse or urination.

What are the risk factors for gynecologic cancer?

  • Cervical cancer.
    – HPV or human papillomavirus.
    – Smoking.
    – Having HIV.
    – Having sex with different people on a regular basis.
    – Having given birth to more than three babies.
  • Ovarian cancer.
    – Being middle-aged or older.
    – Family history.
    – Certain gene changes (mutations) can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Mutations in breast cancer predisposition genes 1 and 2 (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and those associated with Lynch syndrome increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
    – Having had breast, uterine or colorectal cancer.
    – Having endometriosis.
    – Not having children or having had difficulties in conceiving them.
  • Uterine cancer.
    – Being over 50 years old.
    – Obesity.
    – Taking estrogen alone, without progesterone, to replace hormones throughout menopause.
    – Having had problems conceiving children.
    – Taking tamoxifen.
    – Family history of uterine, colon or ovarian cancer.
  • Vaginal cancer.
    – Vulvar cancer Having HPV, human papillomavirus.
    – Having had cervical cancer.
    – Weakened immune system.
    – Smoking.
    – Chronic burning of the vulva.
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Can it be prevented?

As with symptoms and risk factors, each type of gynecologic cancer has a different prevention strategy. The following aspects can help reduce the likelihood of developing some of the existing gynecological cancers.

  • Cervical cancer: the two tests that help prevent cervical cancer are the Pap smear and the human papillomavirus test.
  • Ovarian cancer.
    – Taking birth control pills for 5 years or more.
    – Removal of ovaries, tubal ligation, hysterectomy.
    – Giving birth.
    – Breastfeeding.
  • Cancer of the uterus.
    – Taking birth control pills.
    – Maintaining a healthy weight and physical exercise.
    – In the case of taking estrogen, do it with progesterone as well.
  • Vaginal and vulvar cancer: get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), since this type of cancer is caused by HPV, and have a Pap smear.

What is the treatment?

If detected in its early stages, the chances of treatment are very high and it is associated with a long survival and good quality of life. The treatments consist of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, depending on the patient and the stage of the cancer.

  • Surgery: this is an operation in which the doctor removes the tissue affected by the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: specific medication to reduce or eliminate the size of the tumor, i.e. the tissue affected by the cancer. It can be given intravenously, by pill, or both.
  • Radiation therapy: high, intense radiation that “kills” the cancer.