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. This test may be used with the Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in women aged 30 years and older. It also is used to provide more information when a Pap test has unclear results. If you have HPV, follow your doctor’s advice for further testing.
• Get the HPV vaccine if you are at an age when it is recommended. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. It is given in a series of three shots. The vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls. (Note: The vaccine can be given to girls and boys beginning at age 9, according to the CDC and AAP websites.) It also is recommended for girls and women aged 13 through 26 years who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.
Announcement: Prostate and Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month --- September 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6034a6.htm
Committee. Gynecologic Cancers Background Information | Women's Cancer Network. Foundation for Women's Cancer. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.wcn.org/media/background.html
Gynecological Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from www.cdc.gov/cancer/knowledge/pdf/CDC_GYN_Comprehensive_Brochure.pdf
Reviewed on July 13, 2012
by Maryann Gromisch, RN
Edited by Jody Smith
For additional information on cervical cancer prevention and HPV testing, please visit www.theHPVtest.com.