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Gynecologic cancer

What is gynecologic cancer?

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts. Gynecologic cancers begin in different places within a woman’s pelvis, which is the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones.

The five main types of gynecologic cancer are:

  • Cervical
  • Ovarian
  • Uterine
  • Vaginal
  • Vulvar

What are the risk factors for gynecologic cancer?

Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different risk factors. However, all women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. Treatment works best when gynecologic cancers are found early.

What are the symptoms of gynecologic cancer?

Gynecologic cancer symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Itching or burning of the vulva
  • Changes in the vulva color or skin, such as a rash, sores or warts

How is gynecologic cancer diagnosed?

Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow up. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus virus that can cause these cell changes.

How is gynecologic cancer treated?

Treatments for gynecologic cancer include:

  • Surgery: Doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation.
  • Chemotherapy: Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Radiation: Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer.

Patient support

Best Chance Network is a breast and cervical cancer screening program that provides the following at no cost to you.

  • Help and guidance from nurses
  • Clinical breast exams by a breast surgeon
  • Screening for cervical cancer
  • Testing as recommended by surgeon that may include mammograms, ultrasound as well as further work-up
  • Follow-up appointments as needed
  • Referrals to other physicians

The Best Chance Network provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to women in South Carolina who are between the ages of 30 and 64 and are medically underserved. Learn more here. 

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