The Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) has declared September as Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM). Under this initiative, it is their goal to bring about awareness about all gynecologic cancers among more and more people each year.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that more than 113,500 women will be diagnosed with gynecological cancer this year, and there will be more than 33,000 deaths due to the disease. (NCCC)
What Are Gynecologic Cancers?
Gynecologic cancers are cancers that develop in the reproductive tract of women. There are five specific types of gynecologic cancers, and each of them has different symptoms. Women must be aware of these gynecologic cancers, the potential warnings they must look out for, and prevention strategies.
Awareness is important as women journey through reproductive years, then through menopause, and after. Here are some different gynecologic cancers to know about.
Types of Gynecologic Cancers and Their Symptoms
Cervical cancer is cancer that begins in the cervix and is caused by abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Also, a vast majority of cervical cancer cases are linked to human papillomavirus or HPV infection.
Since the early stages of cervical cancer may not show any symptoms, regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and HPV tests are essential. Some symptoms may include pain, vaginal odor, vaginal discharge, or abnormal vaginal bleeding. It is the only type of gynecologic cancer that can be prevented by regular screening and preventive vaccination. (Foundation for Women’s Cancer)
Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries. Ovarian cancer affects women of all ages, and it is the seventh most common cancer among women. Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer may include bloating, frequent or urgent urination, pain or pressure in the pelvic area, feeling full quickly or difficulty eating, indigestion, etc.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are persistent, and it’s essential to pay attention to signs that are not normal for your body. If any of these symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, seek medical attention, as it can help in early detection. (CDC, 2021)
Uterine or endometrial cancer is cancer of the inner lining of the uterus, also known as the endometrium. According to the CDC, it is the fourth most common cancer in women in the United States and the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer.
The most common symptom is heavy or irregular vaginal bleeding, especially in younger women. In older women, any spotting, bleeding, or brownish discharge after menopause could be a symptom of endometrial cancer.
Vaginal cancer begins in the vagina or the birth canal. Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer and usually affects women aged between 50 and 70 years.
The early stages of cancer may not show any symptoms. However, some common signs may include pain, unusual vaginal bleeding, lump or mass in the vagina, watery discharge, problems with bowel or urination movements, etc.
Vulvar cancer is another rare type of cancer, and it forms in the vulva. Some of its symptoms may include itching, pain or burning, an open sore that lasts for a month or more, ulcers in the genital area, a bump, lump, or wart-like growth, etc. Vulvar cancer is highly curable if it is detected in the early stages.
(Pic Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Prevention of Gynecologic Cancers
When gynecologic cancers are detected early, the chances of successful treatment are high; hence, self-exams and screenings are critical. Heredity also plays a significant role in some gynecologic cancers. However, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and an active lifestyle play a massive part in prevention.
Women must always listen to their bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and seek medical attention. While all women are at risk of gynecologic cancers, everyone needs to know about the risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures to keep their loved ones safe. The hashtag #IWishIKnew is a way to connect with Gynecologic Cancer Awareness. Stay vigilant and stay healthy!
NCCC. “Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.” NCCC, www.nccc-online.org/gynecological-cancer-awareness-month/.
Foundation for Women’s Cancer. “Cervical Cancer.” Foundation for Women’s Cancer, www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/gynecologic-cancers/cancer-types/cervical/.
CDC. “Basic Information About Ovarian Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Mar. 2021, www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/.