Awareness and Early Screening of Gynecological Cancers is Key to Prevention

While breast cancer is a hot topic in the national media, it's important to be informed on other women's cancers that don't get much media attention. Gynecologic cancers are cancers that affect the female reproductive organs, including the ovaries, endometrium, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, peritoneum, vagina and vulva. And, just as women have become more aware of the warning signs of breast cancer, it’s equally important for women to understand the facts about gynecologic cancer.

Roughly 71,500 women in the United States each year are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, and the risk increases with age. The most common gynecologic cancer is endometrial/uterine cancer, which affects more than 52,000 women annually in the U.S.

The key to lowering the risk for these cancers is preventive care and early diagnosis. And for many women, that may mean taking time out from busy family and work schedules to put their health first.

Understand your own risk factors – and your family history – and have an open dialog with your primary care physician.” - Dr. Maurie Markman, President of Medicine & Science, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

You can play an active role in reducing your chance of developing gynecologic cancers. A key factor for survival of these cancers is early diagnosis.

  • Make healthy choices for yourself, such as a well-balanced diet, an active lifestyle, quitting or avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and safe sex practices.
  • Make time for an annual physical. A Pap test is an important check for abnormal cells in the cervix, because in most cases of cervical cancer there are no noticeable symptoms. Routine pelvic exams may also improve the likelihood of early detection for endometrial cancer. For women over 30, the HPV test screens for high-risk HPV strains that may lead to cervical cancer. 
  • Educate yourself on your health history and your family’s health history. Having close relatives on either side of the family who have had ovarian cancer increases a woman’s chance of getting ovarian cancer herself.

Cervical cancer tends to occur during midlife. Most cases are found in women under the age of 50, and it is linked to human papillomaviruses (HPV).

Endometrial cancer is rare for women under the age of 45; most cases are found in women over 50.

Ovarian cancer affects up to 5% of women who have it in their family histories. It has the highest mortality of the gynecologic cancers, killing more than 14,000 women annually in the United States.

[SOURCE: Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 2015]