Gynecologic cancer is an uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells that originate from the reproductive organs. There are several types of gynecologic cancers which include cervical, gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), primary peritoneal, ovarian, uterine/endometrial, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death by cancer in women. The cervix has two main types of cells: squamous and glandular cells. Abnormal changes in either of these two types of cells can result in cervical cancer.
Since nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a persistent infection with HPV, vaccinating women and young girls before they are sexually active can lead to the greatest prevention of pre-cancer and cancer. Also, routine Pap tests to screen for HPV or signs of cervical cancer can be critical to early detection.
There are three types of ovarian cancer: epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell cancer and stromal cell cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common, accounting for 85 to 89 percent of ovarian cancers. It ranks fourth in cancer deaths among women, causing more deaths than any other female reproductive system cancer.
Uterine cancer also known as endometrial cancer, is the most common type of gynecologic cancer. Some risk factors for uterine/endometrial cancer include the use of estrogen without progesterone, diabetes, hypertension, tamoxifen use and later age of Menopause. However, one of the most common risk factors for developing uterine/endometrial cancer is obesity.
Vaginal cancer is one of the rarest forms of gynecologic cancers usually affecting women between 50 to 70- years-old. Due to the fact that vaginal cancers are often associated with HPV, vaginal cancer can be prevented by vaccinating women and girls before they are sexually active.
Vulvar cancer is a rare, abnormal growth on the external female genitalia, typically occurring in elderly women. Fortunately, vulvar cancer is very curable when it is detected at an early stage. Treatment can, however, have substantial adverse effects on a patients’ sexual function, bladder and rectal function, as well as their body image.
Protection against infection from HPV can reduce the risk of vulvar cancer by vaccinating women and young girls before they are sexually active. Also, examination of the vulvar for changes by women at home or by their gynecologist can lead to the detection of pre-invasive or early vulvar cancer.