13 Gynecological Cancer Symptoms and Facts Every Woman Needs to Know
For most women being hit with the news they or someone close to them have one of the five types of gynecological cancers can come with the devastation and heartbreak such a news deserves.
Gynecological cancer is any type of cancers that occurs in a woman’s reproductive system and are five in number:
- Cervical cancer
- Uterine or endometrial cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Vulvar cancer
Gynecological cancer is more common than most people know and according to a study carried out, more than 94,000 women were diagnosed of one type of this cancer between 2012 and 2016.
Cancer is commonly referred to as the “silent killer” as most times it doesn’t present with any symptoms until the disease is well advanced and gynecological cancer is no exception. Also, while these five cancer types are lumped under one umbrella, each comes with its own different and sometimes unique symptoms.
The Five Different Types of Cancers Explained
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of gynecological cancer as an estimated 12,000 women get diagnosed of it each year. It is a cancer type or tumor that begins in the cervix, the mouth of the uterus and is one of the cancer types that can be prevented through regular screening or a pap smear.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the chief cause of cervical cancer and is ,most times, sexually transmitted. However, while HPV causes cervical cancer, not all cases of it lead to this disease as most women’s systems are sometimes able to fight off and recover from this infection.
Your risk of developing cervical cancer from a human papilloma virus increases if you have or practice any of the right under-listed factors:
- you smoke
- have multiple sexual partners
- have been on birth control for a long period of time
- have a lot of children
- are HIV positive.
Women and men are strongly advised to undergo regular Pap or HPV tests where they can be screened for any abnormal growth in the cervix.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Some cases of cervical cancer do not come with symptoms from the start. However, as the disease progresses, one may begin to experience gynecological cancer symptoms like pelvic pain and bleeding from the vagina.
Uterine or Endometrial Cancer
Uterine cancer, also called endometrial cancer, is the most commonly diagnosed cancer type in women and an estimated 50,600 women get diagnosed of it each year. While the exact cause of endometrial cancer is unknown, it is believed that an unusually high level of estrogen contributes to it.
Uterine cancer comes about as a result of cells growing too quickly on the tissue lining of the uterus and are of two types: endometrial cancer (which is a more common type) and uterine sarcoma (rare, but more difficult to treat due to its aggressive nature).
Risk factors of uterine cancer include diabetes, high levels of estrogen with very little progesterone, hypertension, obesity, and late menopause.
Symptoms of uterine cancer to look out for include:
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Very heavy period
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Pronounced weight loss
- Watery or blood-tinged vaginal discharge
Ovarian cancer is. more common in women 50 years and above, although it can affect younger women. This gynecological cancer type, while not as common as the others, accounts for more deaths and is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancer.
The cause of ovarian cancer remains unknown and symptoms can remain hidden until the diseases progresses to the advanced stage.
Ovarian cancer is further divided into three types:
- Germ Cells: which is ovarian cancer that starts in the cells that produce eggs in the ovaries.
- Stromal Cells: cancer that begins in the cells responsible for producing hormones,
- Epithelial Cancer: cancer that starts in the cells that line the fallopian tubes.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer includes:
- Extreme tiredness
- Shortness of breath
- Pains in the lower abdomen
- Weight loss or pain
- Swollen legs
- Unexplained back ache
- Abnormal or irregular menstrual cycle
- Vaginal bleeding
- Problems with your bladder habits
- Abdominal swelling
Vaginal cancer is the rarest form of gynecological cancer and typically affects women 50-70 years of age. This cancer type occurs when cancerous cells grow in the lining of the vagina, but can spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer include:
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding after sex
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Painful urination
- Frequent urination
- Watery vagina discharge
- Pelvic pain
- A mass or lump in the vagina
Vulvar cancer is yet another rare type of gynecological cancer and accounts for 4% of gynecological cancer. It affects women 55 years and above and is one cancer type that occurs outside the vagina in the labia and clitoris. It can be easily cured if detected early.
Symptoms of vulvar cancer include:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Itching vulvar
- Pain in the vulvar region
- Painful urination
- Warts in the vulvar
While vulvar cancer can affect any women, those more at risk include women who:
- Have been diagnosed of HIV or AIDS
- Women who smoke
- Women diagnosed with HPV
- Women with a history of genital warts
Read Also: Breast Cancer Types and Causes
Some Key Facts About Gynecological Cancer Every Woman Should Know
1.Most gynecological cancers come with very little to no symptoms and women are advised to undergo regular checkups and tests. For cervical cancer, women aged 21-29 are advised to do a test once every three years, women 30-65 once every five years and women 65 years and above who show a cancer negative result aren’t required to carry test.
Other cancer types are diagnosed through other screenings and tests that could be carried out.
2.Gynecological cancer is dangerous but could be easily treated if detected on time.
3.Besides 50 years of age being one of the risk factors of gynecological cancer, others to look out for include being obese, having very few periods in a year (less than five), going on an estrogen therapy with no balancing progesterone, trying to conceive, and having a family history of ovarian cancer.
4.There are a few gynecological cancer treatment options available for women with this disease and the type to be adopted would depend on the type of cancer and how far it has progresses.
A few gynecological treatment options women should know include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation and the doctor usually determines the right treatment or combination of treatment to embark on based on the result of the tests and or screening conducted.
5.While every woman is at risk of gynecological cancer which increases with age, over 91,000 women get diagnosed of it in the US alone.
6.As earlier said, the most common type of gynecological cancer is uterine cancer with a prevalence of 26.82 cases per 100,000 and the least common type is vaginal cancer affecting 0.66 per 100,000.
7.Cancer prevalence defer by ethnicity. Hispanic women have the highest rate of cervical cancer, white women get diagnosed of uterine cancer a lot more, while black women get diagnosed more of vaginal cancer.
8.Gynecological cancer typically affects women that are more advanced, however cervical cancer usually begins a little earlier and woman as young as 50 have been known to have it.
9.Healthy lifestyle choices like practicing safe sex, regular exercising, and quitting smoking have been known to greatly reduce your risk of developing this disease.
10.September is set aside as gynecological cancer awareness month, a time where more awareness is made on the prevention and treatment of this disease.
11.In extreme cases of uterine cancer, the gynecological cancer treatment recommended usually involves surgery to remove the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.
12.Cancer, including gynecological cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, with lung and breast cancers being the most common type as each accounts for 12.3% of all cancer-related deaths.
13.The survival rate for cancer keeps increasing and countries with the highest surviving rate of cancer include US, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, France, Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Finland.
Tags: gynecological cancer symptoms and facts, gynecological cancer treatment,