Cancers are named for the part of the body in which they start. Gynecologic cancer is an umbrella term that encompasses the types of cancer that originate in the pelvis, or below the stomach and in between the hip bones. Because not all women have the same reproductive organs, gynecologic cancer can occur in anyone with a cervix, uterus, vulva, vagina, or ovaries. These five types of gynecologic cancer are the most common, and a much rarer type of gynecologic cancer occurs in a patient’s fallopian tubes. Each part of this reproductive system can produce a different kind of gynecologic cancer, with varying symptoms and risk factors.
Gynecologic cancer points toward the area where the cancer first begins: pelvic reproductive organs like a cervix, uterus, vulva, vagina, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. As the term is broken down further, the types, and sources, of gynecologic cancer become more specific.
The five different types of most common gynecologic cancer have varying sources, and some of them have no known cause. Identifying risk factors can help in determining the cause of gynecologic cancer. See below for risk factors.
The likelihood of a patient developing gynecologic cancer is difficult to gauge, though some risk factors are outlined below. For this reason, it is imperative that people with reproductive organs that could develop gynecologic cancer know the rhythms of their bodies and can identify abnormalities. Symptoms can also vary based on which type of gynecologic cancer is present in a patient’s body.
Anyone with a cervix, uterus, vulva, vagina, or ovaries is at risk for developing gynecologic cancer. Risk for these particular types of cancer increases with age. Though there is overlap between risk factors, each type of gynecologic cancer has its own range of risk factors.
The best and most effective treatments often happen when the diagnosis is made earlier on in the cancer’s development. Treatment varies significantly depending on the type and severity of the gynecologic cancer. The most common treatments for gynecologic cancer include some types of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy.
Monitoring symptoms and identifying risk factors can help make an accurate diagnosis, along with a doctor that understands and takes seriously issues regarding the reproductive organs. As soon as any symptoms develop, a patient should involve a doctor. Following a diagnosis, a doctor will figure out what stage the cancer is at and inform the patient. This staging process is necessary in order to create the most effective treatment plan. Additionally, if there is interest, doctors can help patients figure out fertility options.
Above all, early intervention can make the biggest difference for a patient with gynecologic cancer. All people at risk for gynecologic cancer would benefit from yearly visits to a gynecologist, as well as additional appointments for any abnormalities that arise.
A doctor’s assessment and diagnosis of specific symptoms allows the collaborative team of specialists to create a treatment plan. A patient with gynecologic cancer will have regular appointments with a doctor. Depending on the patient’s treatment plan, some treatments can take months to fully complete.
Patients whose gynecological cancer is diagnosed and treated in its earlier stages have higher chances for survival. Additional risk factors, like age and quality of overall health, can also impact a patient’s chances of survival. Some gynecologic cancers, like ovarian cancer, are more severe in nature than others.
A patient’s fertility can be impacted by the severity of the cancer and the type of treatment used to treat the cancer. Patients with fertility concerns can review options and make a plan with a doctor. Pregnancy can increase risk for certain types of gynecologic cancer.