In recent years, most cervical cancers have become completely preventable with a vaccine, and there are screening tests to identify it early. However, it’s important for women to understand the warning signs of gynecological cancers that don’t have screening tests, such as:
Lower your risk for gynecological cancer
At your annual women’s health appointment, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your family history and lifestyle choices that can make a positive impact on your health. Here are some ideas to consider lowering your risk for different types of gynecological cancer:
- Share your family history with your healthcare provider. Only about 5 to 10 percent of gynecological cancers are genetic, according to Wellstar Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Amy Carroll. However, some patients may benefit from genetic risk assessment, which looks for hereditary gene mutations that increase an individual’s risk for ovarian cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight. Women who are overweight have a higher risk of being diagnosed with the most common type of endometrial (uterine) cancer – and for the cancer to return after treatment. This is a challenge for many people and your health providers want you to feel empowered – not embarrassed – to discuss your BMI, nutrition, weight reduction and wellness.
- Stay tobacco-free or quit tobacco. Again, many health providers can help women with education and resources to quit smoking or vaping for the long haul. Quitting tobacco can reduce your risk for some gynecological cancers and many other health conditions.
Watch for changes in your body & talk to your doctor
Because there are no screening tests for gynecological cancers other than cervical cancer, it is important for women to be educated on the signs and symptoms — and to act on them.
“Unfortunately, there are many vague symptoms associated with a lot of gynecologic issues,” Dr. Carroll said. “Typically, I tell people if you have any symptom that doesn’t come and go but persists for a couple weeks or more, it’s worthwhile to talk to somebody about it.”
Dr. Carroll said that one symptom patients should always discuss with their provider is post-menopausal bleeding. Also, while most people experience occasional bloating, persistent bloating can be a sign of ovarian cancer and should be discussed with a provider, she said.
Signs & symptoms of gynecological cancer
Some gynecological symptoms to discuss with your doctor include:
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Excessively heavy menstrual cycles
- Abnormal bleeding between periods
- Unexplained pelvic or abdominal pain, bloating or nausea
- Discharge or pain with intercourse
- Severe change in bowel or bladder habits
- A heavy feeling in the pelvis
- A sore or lump in your vulva
The highest level of treatment for gynecological cancer
The physicians and healthcare teams at Wellstar are focused on keeping women healthy and preventing and lowering the risk of cancer and other health conditions. However, when a woman does get gynecological cancer, she has access to a team of experienced and knowledgeable gynecological cancer experts close to home.
Wellstar’s gynecologic cancer care program includes:
- A gynecological cancer-specific multidisciplinary tumor conference where gynecological oncologists, radiation and pathologists meet to diagnose and plan treatment.
- Gynecologic cancer surgeons who perform procedures robotically, laparoscopically or as open procedures, based on evidence-based practices that lead to the best outcomes.
- A robust support network that includes cancer-specific nutritional counseling, genetic counseling, nurse navigation, psychological counseling and more.