Medical Minute: Guide to Gynecologic Cancers

How much do you know about the cancers that affect women? There are five main gynecologic cancers (cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar).

Cervical Cancer

All women are at risk for cervical cancer, though it occurs most often in women over age 30. Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause.cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least 50% of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening testsscreening tests and a vaccine to prevent HPV infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women.  Treatment is most effective when the ovarian cancer is found in its early stages. There are often signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women. About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older.

Uterine Cancer

The most common type of uterine cancer is also called endometrial cancer. It forms in the lining of your uterus, the endometrium. Treatment is most effective when it is found early. Though all women are at risk for uterine cancer, the risk increases with age with a majority found in women who are going through or who have gone through menopause.

Uterine cancer is the 4th most common cancer and the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer. In 2008, 43,134 women in the United States were diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer

Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. All women are at risk for these cancers, but very few will get them. Together, they account for 6%–7% of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

Contact your Dr. immediately if you feel that you are at risk or would like more information on anything mentioned above.

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