Women’s Health: What to Know About Gynecologic Cancers

Author: Lindsey Ulrich


"Often the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers, such as ovarian cancer, for example, may be common symptoms people have from time to time." 

 

September is gynecologic cancer awareness month, a nationwide effort to educate women about screening and prevention. Gynecologic cancers start in a women’s reproductive organs and include five main types: cervical, endometrial, ovarian, vaginal, and vulvar cancer. >

Each gynecologic cancer can have different signs and symptoms and have often been deemed as “silent” cancers, or hard to detect due to not having noticeable early symptoms.

“Often the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers, such as ovarian cancer, for example, may be common symptoms people have from time to time,” said Jayson Field, MD, an ABOG-certified gynecologic oncologist at MSU Health Care and Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing. “This includes feeling bloated or constipated, change in appetite, unintentional weight loss and nausea that worsens for three weeks.”

Other gynecologic cancers, such as cervical or endometrial cancers, may be associated with abnormal vaginal bleeding. Dr. Field suggests any symptoms that last for longer than a few weeks should be addressed with their primary care physician to rule out any abnormalities.

Knowing your own risk for gynecologic cancer is very important when talking with your primary care physician and can lead to recommended testing, screenings, and vaccines that are available for prevention.

“Women’s risk of developing a gynecologic cancer typically increases with age, particularly around or after menopause,” said Dr. Field. “Other risks factors include those who have a family history of gynecologic cancers, particularly ovarian cancer or breast cancer at a young age, and women who have had fertility complications or endometriosis, or who are obese.”

Those with a family history of gynecologic cancers may want to seek other preventative measures such as genetic counseling and testing and may benefit from other preventative measures such as birth control pills or prophylactic surgery.

“Family history of ovarian cancer in first-, second-, or third-degree relatives is an indication to see a genetic counselor and get testing done,” said Dr. Field. “The genetic test can reveal genetic mutations and give a better understanding of your options for prevention and attempts at early detection.”

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing gynecologic cancer as well as routine wellness visits with your primary care physician to prevent and detect conditions and abnormalities that can be associated with cancer. Vaccination against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent abnormal pap smears, genital warts, and cervical cancer. This vaccine can be given between age 9 and 46.

Learn more about genetic counseling at Karmanos.

Learn more about gynecologic oncology services.

View a list of McLaren Greater Lansing primary care physicians that are accepting new patients.

Read more articles on health and wellness.