What are Gynecologic Cancers?
Gynecologic cancer refers to any cancer originating in the female reproductive tract. The five most common types of gynecologic cancers are: cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Each type of gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs and symptoms, different risk factors and different strategies for prevention. The risk of developing gynecologic cancer increases with age and family history of gynecologic cancer, but all women are at risk for developing gynecologic cancers.
Types of Gynecologic Cancer
Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over 30 and is usually caused by persistent infection of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is caused by sexual contact with a person carrying HPV. Nearly half of women who are sexually active will have HPV at some point in their lives, and yet a small percentage of those women develop cervical cancer. Only cervical cancer has screening tests that detect its presence early when treatment can be most effective.
Find out more about treatment options for cervical cancer in Tampa.
Ovarian cancer refers to a number of diseases that originate in the ovaries or fallopian tubes. There are several of types of ovarian cancers, the most common being tumors known as high-grade serous carcinoma, which occur in about 70% of ovarian cancer cases. Middle-aged women with family histories of ovarian cancer or who have had endometriosis, breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer are at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
The most common type of uterine cancer is called endometrial cancer because it forms in the lining of the uterus, or the endometrium. Most uterine cancers are found in women who are going through or who have gone through menopause, but other risk factors include obesity, having trouble or have had trouble getting pregnant, a family history of uterine cancers, women who take estrogen for hormone replacement and those who take tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer.
Vaginal and Vulval cancers
Vaginal and vulval cancers are named for the areas of the female anatomy where they originate and are very rare. While all women are at risk for developing these cancers, even when combined they only account for about 7% of all gynecologic cancers in the U.S. Several factors, and particularly combinations of these factors, increase the chance of getting vaginal and vulval cancers. These include smoking, human papillomavirus (HPV), having certain gynecologic precancers, and having conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV.
Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancer
While symptoms for each type of gynecologic cancer are unique, they do share some symptoms. Because many common symptoms involve abnormal bleeding or discharge or menstrual rhythms, it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. Some common symptoms associated with gynecologic cancers are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, which is common with all gynecologic cancers except vulvar cancer.
- Bloating, getting full quickly while eating, and abdominal or back pain may be signs of ovarian cancer.
- Pelvic pain or pressure is common for ovarian and uterine cancers.
- More frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation are common for ovarian and vaginal cancers.
- Itching, burning, pain, or tenderness of the vulva, and changes in vulva color or skin, such as a rashes, sores, or warts, are signs of vulvar cancer.
Treatment of Gynecologic Cancers
Treatments vary for gynecologic cancers, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. A treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and often these treatments are combined. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology is dedicated to providing the best and most advanced radiation treatment options for women with gynecologic cancer, including external (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy or Image-Guided Radiation Therapy) and internal (Brachytherapy) radiation therapies, as well as CyberKnife® radiosurgery.
Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about gynecologic cancer and gynecologic cancer treatment options. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology has multiple free-standing Florida facilities located in the Tampa Bay area in Tampa and Brandon.