Do You Know the Warning Signs of Gynecologic Cancer?
September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month—time to become aware of the warning signs of cancer of the cervix, uterus and ovaries. Fortunately, for cervical and uterine cancer, early detection provides an excellent chance for survival. Early detection of ovarian cancer can also be life-saving, but is much harder to detect in its early, curable stages.
Cervical cancer risk is closely linked to having multiple sex partners, sexually transmitted diseases, the human papillomavirus (HPV), smoking and using immunosuppressive drugs. All women over 18 years of age and those who are sexually active should undergo annual Pap tests to detect early signs of cervical cancer. If the test reveals abnormal cells, your doctor may recommend a cervical biopsy. Cervical cancer may include symptoms like vaginal bleeding after intercourse, spotting or discharge. While these symptoms can also indicate infections or other less serious conditions, you should see your doctor if you experience any of them.
Abnormal bleeding in premenopausal women can also indicate the early stages of uterine cancer. According to Naze D., M.D., medical director of gynecology/oncology with The St. Luke Hospitals, risk factors for this cancer include obesity, a history of infertility or a family or personal history of cancer. While abnormal bleeding in post-menopausal women can also be a sign of less serious conditions, most cases of endometrial cancer (cancer in the lining of the uterus) are diagnosed at an early stage when this symptom is brought to the attention of a physician.
Ovarian cancer is the trickiest and deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, because there is no reliable screening test and its symptoms are usually confused with those of other diseases. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pressure or bloating
- Constant and progressive changes in bowel or bladder patterns
- Persistent digestive problems
- Excessive fatigue
- Abnormal bleeding
- Pain during intercourse
Ovarian cancer occurs in one out of 55 women, only 25 percent of whom are diagnosed in the early stages. Risk factors include: increasing age; personal or family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer; and not bearing a child. Women who are at an increased risk for ovarian cancer should ask their doctor about a CA125 blood test (to detect excess amounts of a sugar protein found in the blood and produced by cancer cells) and a transvaginal ultrasound of the ovaries. There is a concerted research effort to develop a better blood test and an ovarian Pap smear for earlier detection in the future.
Healthy Living Article List
|For Women||For Seniors||Fighting Cancer||Your Heart||Emergency 101|
|Work Smart||Bones, Muscles and Joints||Nutrition News||Advice From Our Docs|