What is Gynecologic Cancer?
Gynecologic cancers are cancers of the female reproductive system including: ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina and vulva. Cancers of the uterus and ovaries are among the ten leading cancers in women. Taken as a group, approximately 91,730 gynecologic cancers will be diagnosed 2013 this year in women in the US.
Causes and Risk
Each gynecologic cancer is unique. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers and risk increases with age.
Symptoms and Detection
Each gynecologic cancer is unique with different signs and symptoms. The American Cancer Society has developed screening guidelines for Cervical and Endometrial (uterine) Cancer.
- Cervical cancer screening (testing) should begin at age 21. Women under age 21 should not be tested.
- Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. Now there is also a test called the HPV test. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
- Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
- Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. Women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
- A woman who has had her uterus removed (and also her cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.
- A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.
Some women – because of their health history – may need to have a different screening schedule for cervical cancer.
Endometrial (uterine) cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends that at the time of menopause, all women should be told about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Women should report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their doctors.
Some women – because of their history – may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy. Please talk with your doctor about your history.
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