Some gynecological cancers can be detected in the early stages, while others, like ovarian, are often not detected until they are in a more advanced stage.
The symptoms are not always obvious for several different types of gynecological cancers that affect the cervix, ovaries, vulva, vagina, and uterus.
While the symptoms of gynecological cancers are not always obvious, there are a several ways of discovering if you are at risk of getting certain gynecological cancers.
As a general rule, you should consult with a physician if you have any abnormal bleeding, pain in the abdominal or pelvic areas, or unusual discharges. Post-menopausal woman who experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting should be evaluated immediately as this could be an indicator for endometrial cancer.
Ovarian cancer symptoms can be vague and increase over time. If you have symptoms of abdominal bloating, pelvic pain or discomfort, a feeling of fullness quickly after eating, unexplained weight gain or weight loss, changes in bowel habits or a frequency of urination for more than two weeks, consult your physician. Early detection increases survival and cure. A Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer.
The human papillomavirus (HPV), which is passed through sexual contact, is the cause for most cervical cancers. Most women who have HPV infections never know it. This is one reason we recommend regular Pap tests. Recently, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists revised the guidelines for Pap tests. Please discuss with your physician how the revised guidelines may apply to you.
Between 10-20 percent of ovarian cancer cases do have a genetic predisposition. A breast cancer gene (BRCA) creates a link between breast and ovarian cancers and is responsible for this predisposition. If someone in your family had ovarian cancer before reaching menopause or if you have multiple family members with breast cancer, you should speak with your physician about participating in John Muir Health’s genetic counseling and testing program.
Women who have inherited a genetic mutation known as Lynch Syndrome have an 80% lifetime risk of getting endometrial cancer. Again, it is important to speak with your physician about your family history to see if it makes sense to undergo a more in-depth evaluation with our genetic experts.