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Cervical, Ovarian, and Uterine Cancer – OH MY!

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Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in the female reproductive organs. The affected reproductive organs are located below the stomach and between the hip bones. Those reproductive organs are the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva. These reproductive organs and their cancers are unique and have different signs, symptoms, and risk factors.  Let’s learn more below!

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus. Typically, cervical cancer is caused when the cervix has an infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV). If the cancer is in its early stage, there may not be any signs or symptoms. If the cancer is in its advanced stage, there may be bleeding (such as after sex) or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you. You can help protect yourself by having regular screening through a Pap test and HPV test. You can also help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine. 

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs in the ovaries, which are located on each side of the uterus. Some of the symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge, pain in the pelvic area and back, bloating, difficulty eating, and frequent need to urinate. There is no specific test to screen for ovarian cancer. The best screening you can do is to listen to your body and recognize warning signs.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer occurs in the tissues of the uterus, the pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows.  There are two types of uterine cancer: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer forms in the lining of the uterus, and uterine sarcoma forms in the uterine muscles.  Uterine cancer causes abnormal heavy bleeding and discharge as well as pain or pressure in your pelvis. There is no specific test to screen for ovarian cancer. The best screening you can do is to listen to your body and recognize warning signs.

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer occurs in the vagina, the hollow, tube-like channel between the uterus and the outside of the body.  Vagina cancer has two types: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.  Both forms can spread to other organs in your body.  Vaginal cancer causes abnormal heavy bleeding and discharge as well.  You may also experience an increased urge to urinate, blood in your stool or urine, and pain in your pelvis. There is no specific test to screen for vaginal cancer. The best screening you can do is to listen to your body and recognize warning signs.

Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer occurs in a female’s external genitalia and typically affects the outer vaginal lips.  Some symptoms include itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva, changes in the color of the vulva’s skin, sores, lumps or ulcers that do not go away, and pain during sex or urination. There is not a specific test to screen for vulvar cancer. The best screening you can do is to listen to your body and recognize warning signs.

Every year, approximately 89,000 individuals are diagnosed with a type of gynecological cancer, and 29,000 die. It’s crucial to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes.  Take control of your reproductive health today and make an appointment with your family planning clinician.