5 Types of Gynecologic Cancers You Should Know About
Most of us are familiar with or even know someone who has been affected by, cancer- a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. This week’s blog post will cover a group of a specific type of cancer- those originating in a woman’s reproductive organs, also known as ‘Gynecologic Cancer.’ There are five main types of cancer that affect a woman's reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. Read on ahead to get an overview of these conditions, the signs, and risks associated with them, as well as possible treatment options.
A majority of cases of cervical cancer originates because of the transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually-transmitted virus. HPV is very common, often doesn’t show any symptoms, and goes away on its own. In some cases, though, it can develop into cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer rarely shows any symptoms in the beginning but later stages are marked with abnormal bleeding/discharge from the vagina. A variety of treatments can be used to treat cervical cancer, such as chemotherapy (using special medicines to shrink/kill the cancer), radiation, or surgically removing the cancerous tissue.
Ovarian cancer, as can be gauged by the name, originates in the ovaries of the woman’s reproductive system. This is a cancer that has several signs and symptoms that one should be wary of, these include but are not limited to:
- Abnormal bleeding/discharge from the vagina
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area.
- Abdominal or back pain
- Feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating.
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation.
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
The next type of cancer under ‘gynecologic cancers’ is one that starts in the uterus (also known as the ‘womb’) and is called uterine cancer. The symptoms for this cancer are also similar to the previous ones mainly characterized by abnormal bleeding/discharge from the vagina. ‘Abnormal’ bleeding includes bleeding between periods, or after menopause, or even if the bleeding is heavier/lighter than what you usually experience.
Most treatment options are similar to other types of cancers but uterine cancer may also be treated by hormone therapy. Hormone therapy removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing.
Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer
When cancer starts in the vagina, it is called vaginal cancer. Similarly, when cancer forms in the vulva, it is vulvar cancer. The vagina is the ‘birth canal’ and is the tube-like channel between the uterus and outside of the body. Vulva, on the other hand (which is often mistaken to be the vagina!), is the outer part of the female genital organs and contains the labia. Vulvar cancer most often occurs on the inner edges of the labia.
Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. Many women who have vulvar and vaginal cancer have signs and symptoms which include but are not limited to:
- Itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva that does not go away.
- Changes in the color of the skin of the vulva
- Sores, lumps, or ulcers
- Pain in your pelvis, especially when you urinate or have sex.
It is important to be aware of these different types of cancers, their risk factors, as well as the signs and symptoms to look out for. It is thus recommended to have a record of what may be the ‘usual’ for you in terms of bleeding, pain levels, the appearance of vulva, and other things. You can use various apps that can help you keep track of such factors. If you ever suspect that something might be deviating from the usual or interfering in your life more than it does, always try to reach out to a doctor who can help guide you better.