All women are at risk of gynecological cancers, and risk increases as you get older. The good news is that women’s reproductive cancers can usually be detected during annual wellness checks by a gynecologist.
General Symptoms of Gynecological Cancer
- Abnormal bleeding and spotting, outside of normal menstruation, should be reported to, and checked by your gynecologist. Women who have experienced menopause should not have any vaginal bleeding or spotting; a health care professional should be notified right away.
- Pelvic pain may be the result of a growth or mass, especially if it is accompanied by a feeling of fullness in the belly or pelvis.
- Unusual vaginal discharge that contains blood and occurs between periods or after menopause.
- Pain during normal sexual activity could indicate a serious condition. It should be reported to a doctor immediately.
- Abdominal bloating, extreme changes in weight, loss of appetite can all indicate problems with reproductive organs.
- Urinary symptoms like urgency or frequency could indicate an infection or something more severe.
If you have noticed something suspicious or had changes in your gynecological health, contact your doctor. Our gynecologists will perform a thorough check-up and recommend any additional screenings, if needed.
To request a referral to one of our caring specialists, call 844.303.9355 or find a gynecologist anytime online.
About Gynecological Cancer
There are cancers that are specific to the female reproductive system. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cervical cancer starts in the cervix: the lower part of the uterus. It has two parts and is covered in two different types of cells; cancer begins when these cells mutate and grow out of control. Changes in the cells can be detected by an annual Pap test and treated before they form cancerous tumors.
- Uterine cancer is rare and occurs in the muscle and supporting tissue of the uterus. It can sometimes be detected by an annual Pap test, but is usually diagnosed after surgery has been performed to remove what is thought to be benign tumors on the uterus.
- Ovarian cancer can grow in either or both ovaries. It ranks fifth in cancer deaths for women, but diagnoses have been steadily falling for 20 years. Half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over the age of 63.
- Hereditary factors / family history
- Age – Women over 40
- Long-term use of birth control, especially hormonal or IUD
- Diets low in fruits and vegetables
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases or infections like HPV
If you have a family history of gynecological cancer, it is possible to test for hereditary cancer syndromes. One of CHI Saint Joseph Health's genetic counselors can work with you and your doctors to determine if you are at risk for certain cancers and steps that should be taken to prevent cancer cells and tumors.
The #1 early detection tool for gynecological cancers is the Pap test. It is important that you visit your doctor annually for testing, especially if you have previous history of cysts or benign growths. Your gynecologist will test for common issues but reporting unusual changes will help them determine whether you are at risk of one of these common cancers.
If you find that you have cancer, rest assured you have some of the Commonwealth’s best experts by your side. Our dedicated team—including board-certified surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and more specialists—will work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan. This may include one or a combination of:
Surgery may be performed to remove a tumor, as well as some surrounding tissue to help ensure the cancer is eliminated. In more advanced cases, removal of the organs may be required: total hysterectomy or removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes. If you do require surgery, our surgeons are specially trained in the da Vinci robotic surgical system for better precision with less incision. For patients, this often means significantly less pain and scarring, fewer complications and a shorter recovery time than traditional hysterectomy.
Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells with medicines delivered in varied cycles through either an IV or directly into the abdomen. It is usually given after surgery to kill any missed or remaining cancer cells. Whenever possible, we use newer medications that help minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation may also be used to help prevent recurrence of disease. These brief, painless treatments can be specifically directed at the part of the body where the cancer is located. Treatments are delivered by linear accelerators, where patients lie on a table in a specially designed room.
Patients are often asked to undergo treatment with a full bladder, as this may lower the risk of side effects.
CHI Saint Joseph Health uses the most advanced technology available to target the tumor with extreme precision. Treatments include 3D conformal therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and volumetric modulated radiation therapy (VMAT). Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and use of a hexapod table ensure treatments are focused directly on the target, while minimizing dose to surrounding healthy tissue.
Throughout your journey, you’ll find a variety of cancer support services to meet your physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs. We can help you coordinate your care, answer any questions and provide extra comfort and support every step of the way.