All women are at risk for developing gynecologic cancers. Every year approximately 82,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cancers of the reproductive organs. Gynecologic cancers are the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells originating in female reproductive organs, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva.
There are often no outward signs of gynecologic cancers. However, some common symptoms include:
Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices have been shown to play significant roles in the prevention of cancer. Additionally, knowing your family history can increase your chance of early diagnosis and can help you take preventive action. Screenings and self-examinations conducted regularly can result in the detection of certain gynecologic cancers in their earliest stages, when treatment is more successful.
If the Pap test is abnormal, your doctor may perform a test called a colposcopy to closely examine the cervix. Scraping cells from the cervical canal (endocervical curettage) may also be necessary. A small sample of tissue may be taken from any suspicious area. This test is called a biopsy.
Occasionally, doctors need to examine a larger sample of cervical tissue. It is obtained during a procedure called conization or cone biopsy.
In some situations, your doctor may recommend an exam under anesthesia to better evaluate the extent of a cancer. Tests requiring anesthesia include examination of the bladder (cystoscopy) and rectum (sigmoidoscopy).
Abnormal uterine bleeding, a common symptom of uterine cancer, is usually evaluated by performing a dilatation and curettage, also called a D and C.
Your doctor may also ask for MRI, CT, PET or ultrasound scans of the abdomen and pelvis to better evaluate areas that cannot be directly viewed, such as the ovaries.