Gynecologic cancers originate in the female reproductive organs and each cancer has different symptoms and risk factors.
According to The American Cancer Society, about 110,070 women will face a diagnosis of gynecologic cancer this year, and over 32,120 will die from one of the gynecologic diseases.
Many factors can play a role in causing the abnormal function of genes that lead to a gynecologic cancer, including aging, smoking, and environmental conditions. Genes linked to these cancers can also be inherited. Most cervical cancers and some cancers of the vagina and vulva are caused by a virus known as HPV, or Human Papillomavirus. The recent development of HPV vaccines for girls and women, as well as boys, represents a significant advancement in the fight against these diseases.
Regular screening and self-examinations are important for all women, as they can help detect some gynecologic cancers in their early stages when treatment offers the best chance for a positive outcome. Just like most cancers, lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, are important preventative measures. It is also helpful to know family history to determine if someone may carry a gene which makes them more susceptible to cancer.
Minnesota Oncology encourages women who think they may have a gynecologic cancer to seek care first from a gynecologic oncologist before treatment is started, so the optimal treatment program can be designed.
Gynecologic oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating cancers that are located on the reproductive organs. These highly trained specialists have completed a four-year obstetrics and gynecology residency as well as subspecialty training through a gynecologic oncology fellowship that involves three to four additional years of intensive training in surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and research that are critical to providing the best care for gynecologic cancers.