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Female Cancer Symtoms

Female Cancer Symptoms Women Should Know About

A woman has a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. With increased awareness of the importance of early detection and the development of new treatments, the five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer in the U.S. has improved to roughly 90%. This is good progress, but we need to improve survival rates of other female cancers as well. Breast Cancer Awareness activities in October can be a great opportunity to raise awareness about all female cancers.

Here we provide information on the primary gynecologic cancers that women should be aware of, along with preventative measures, symptoms to look out for, and available gynecologic treatments.

Gynecologic Cancers and Their Symptoms

Most women know that if they find a detectable lump in the breast or get an abnormal mammogram they should follow up with a gynecologist for additional screening for breast cancer. But what are the symptoms of other gynecologic or female cancers?

Other cancers don’t always cause symptoms. That is why it is important to see a gynecologist regularly to get a Pap test for early detection of gynecologic cancers, such as:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Uterine cancer / endometrial cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Vaginal and vulvar cancers

A woman has a one in 40 chance of being diagnosed with uterine cancer (endometrial cancer), a one in 75 chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and a one in 125 chance of being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Vaginal cancer is less common, and more likely to occur among women who have limited access to early screening for cervical cancer.

In most cases, these types of gynecologic cancer occur without causing noticeable symptoms until they are more advanced. When gynecologic or female cancers cause symptoms, these may include:

  • Heavy or irregular bleeding (i.e., spotting between periods)
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bloating
  • Urinary abnormalities (i.e., difficulty, urgency, frequency or pain)
  • Bowel abnormalities
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the back or legs
  • Swelling in the legs

These symptoms should be reported to your gynecologist, who will likely recommend a pelvic exam and Pap test to screen you. Your gynecologist may include an HPV swab test as part of your pelvic exam. Getting regular Pap tests is the best cancer prevention strategy, because it can catch any abnormalities — before they turn into cancer.

HPV and Its Symptoms: And Its Link to Female Cancers

A woman has a one in 10 chance of contracting human papillomavirus, or HPV—a virus that can develop into some gynecologic cancers. Symptoms of HPV include the growth of warts on the hands, feet, lips or tongue and other parts of the body, including the female genital organs or anus.

Certain types of HPV are considered “low-risk” because they are seldom linked to cancer. Other types of HPV are considered “high-risk” because they are linked to cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women, as well as cancer of the anus, mouth and throat in both men and women.

Women should begin getting screened for HPV and gynecologic cancers via a pelvic exam beginning at age 21, and thereafter every 3-5 years, depending on their age, screening results, and/or individual medical history. The HPV test, like the Pap test, is a simple swab of the cervix that is taken during a pelvic exam.

Early Treatment for HPV and Gynecologic Cancers

With early detection, gynecologists and gynecologic oncologists typically employ minimally invasive methods to treat precancerous changes in the cervix, including:

  • Cryosurgery (freezing that destroys abnormal tissue)
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP: a hot wire loop removes cervical tissue)
  • Surgical conization (surgical removal of a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal)
  • Laser vaporization conization (use of a laser to destroy cervical tissue)

More advanced cancers may require more extensive surgical treatment to remove the affected tissue or organs. At miVIP, gynecologic surgeons and oncologists use minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery to treat gynecologic cancers, pelvic masses and other gynecology conditions, such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis, among others.

This article was medically reviewed by Kord Strebel, MD, as part of miVIP’s Healthy Living Recommendations.

Sources:

Cancer Facts for Women. American Cancer Society.

Attention Women: 6 Must-Know Facts About Cervical Cancer. Robyn Stoller. National Foundation for Cancer Research.

What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer? Editorial Staff, American Cancer Society.

What is my Personal Risk of Ovarian Cancer? Editorial Staff, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.

Uterine Cancer. Yvonne C. Collins, MD. Healthy Women.

How Are Gynecologic Cancers Treated? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

PUBLISHED 5 Oct, 2018

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