By MC Kelby
Medical experts define gynecologic cancer as any form of cancer that develops in the woman’s reproductive system. The main types of gynecological cancer include cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer and approximately 26,500 women die from it annually.
The key to reducing the rates of this type of cancer is screening, early detection and recognizing possible symptoms of gynecologic cancers. This type of prevention leads to early diagnosis and timely treatment.
The CDC and the Women’s Cancer Network recommend the
following prevention tips for gynecological cancer:
• Know your family health history and share it with your doctor. Inform your doctor of any and all relatives who have or died from gynecological cancer.
• Make healthy lifestyle choices. These include: exercise regularly, practice safe sex, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and no smoking.
• Pay attention to your body. If you have any abnormal vaginal bleeding, or if you have any other signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancer for two weeks or longer contact your doctor immediately. Many times the symptoms are caused by something other than cancer.
• Get regular Pap tests or Pap smears. This test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. Pap tests can find precancerous changes on the cervix that can be treated to prevent cervical cancer. A Pap test can also find cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective. The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer. The Pap test does NOT screen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal or vulvar cancers.
• Get an HPV test with your Pap if you are 30 or older. The HPV test
looks for HPV infection – the virus that causes the cervical changes detected
through a Pap. Knowing your HPV status allows your physician to make
more informed decisions regarding your cervical health.