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Gynecological Cancer

Mission Cancer brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists who provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of gynecologic cancers. Our patients are able to visit with a number of specialists in one location, receiving comprehensive and convenient care.

  • Fellowship-trained gynecologic oncologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Diagnostic radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Pathologists
  • Palliative care
  • Nurse navigators

What Is Gynecologic Cancer?

Gynecologic cancers are caused by the spread of abnormal cells originating in a woman’s reproductive organs, including in the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. The five main types of gynecological cancer are cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. A sixth type of gynecologic cancer, fallopian tube cancer, is very rare.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer starts in the cervix. It occurs most often in women over 40 and is the most common type of gynecological cancer. Some types can be prevented by the HPV vaccine (human papillomavirus). Regular Pap tests can also aid in early detection.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs that produce eggs. Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer. Women at highest risk may have a personal or family history of breast, colon or ovarian cancer, are menopausal, have not had children, have had endometriosis or are obese. It is more common in white women than in African American women.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is cancer of the uterus. The uterus is made up of different tissue types that can lead to different kinds of uterine cancer, the most common being endometrial cancer. It is most commonly diagnosed in women who have gone through menopause.

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer occurs in the vagina. It’s a rare type of cancer, but survival rates are high. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can increase the risk of vaginal cancer.

Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer occurs on the outer surface area of female genitalia. It is a relatively rare diagnosis, representing about 5 percent of all gynecologic cancers. If detected early, it is easily treated and cured. Vulvar cancer often appears as a lesion, so regular gynecologic exams are critical for early detection.

Fallopian Tube Cancer

Fallopian tube cancer, also known as tubal cancer, develops in the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries and the uterus. It is very rare and accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all gynecologic cancers.

Risk Factors for Gynecological Cancer

Risk factors for gynecological cancer vary by the type of cancer.

  • Cervical cancer - Almost all cervical cancer is caused by a persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Women between 30 and 50 are at risk for cervical cancer. Smokers also pose a greater risk.
  • Ovarian cancer - Risk increases with age, especially around menopause. Additional risk factors include a family history of ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, primary peritoneal cancer or premenopausal breast cancer, or a personal history of premenopausal breast cancer. Family history of both colon and endometrial cancers; any male family member with breast cancer, and Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
  • Uterine/endometrial cancer - Risk factors can include taking estrogen without progesterone, being overweight, late menopause, diabetes or high blood glucose, not bearing children, hypertension or high blood pressure, a family history or endometrial or colon cancer, and use of tamoxifen (used to treat breast cancer).
  • Vaginal cancer - Persistent HPV infection, smoking, being 60-plus and use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) can contribute to risk.
  • Vulvar cancer - Risk factors can include lichen sclerosis (a chronic skin condition), persistent HPV infection and smoking.

Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancer

Signs and symptoms are not the same for every person, and each gynecologic cancer has its own set of signs and symptoms. That’s why it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you, so you can recognize any warning signs that could be symptoms of gynecologic cancer. If you have vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you or any of these other symptoms, talk to your doctor right away:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  •  Feeling full to quickly after eating or difficulty eating
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • More frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain or back pain
  • Itching, burning, pain or tenderness of the vulva
  • Changes in the vulva color or skin, such as a rash, sores or warts

Treatment

Surgery

Surgery is typically used as the primary treatment for gynecologic cancers. It is typically comprised of removing the tumor, but may also involve the removal of the uterus, ovaries or cervix depending on the diagnosis, location and staging of the cancer. At Mission, we partner with some of the most skilled surgeons in the region with special expertise in treatment for gynecologic cancers. Our fellowship-trained gynecologic oncologists use the most advanced minimally invasive techniques, including state-of-the-art robotic surgery, which allows them to precisely perform delicate procedures through smaller incisions, which may allow for shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries and less scarring.

Find a gynecologic oncologist

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, and may be used in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. At Mission, our medical oncologists are experts in the tumor-specific disease processes, treatments and research options.

Learn more about medical oncology

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Hormone Therapy

This is a treatment used to change the way hormones cause cancer to grow, and is typically used when tests show that the cancer cells have hormone receptors that cause the cancer to grow. It may be used to help stop or slow cancer growth.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps treat cancer by supporting the body’s immune system. It is typically comprised of medicines that help restore, boost or redirect your immune system so it can recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.

Gynecologic Cancer Support and Survivorship

We understand a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we provide access to a dedicated nurse navigator, who guides you through each step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. Our Sarah Cannon GYN nurse navigators have specialized training in gynecologic cancers, and will initiate and facilitate timely communication with each member of your care team, provide education, resources and emotional support, and provide access to appropriate support groups and community resources.