Cancer occurs when the cells divide uncontrollably and destroy the body tissue. When cancer originates in reproductive organs, it is termed gynecological cancer.1 It begins in different places within a woman’s pelvis, which is the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones.2
There are main common types of Gynecological Cancer are:2
- Cervical cancer – Begins in the cervix which is a lower, narrow end of the uterus/womb.
- Ovarian cancer – It activates in the ovaries, which are located on each side of the uterus.
- Uterine cancer – Starts in the uterus, the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
- Vaginal cancer – Arise in the vagina, which is the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body.
- Vulvar cancer – Appear in the vulva, the outer part of the female genital organs.
- Fallopian tube cancer – Developing the fallopian tube located on each side of the uterus. It is a rare type of gynecological cancer.
It is more common in women between the ages of 35 and 44 years old but it rarely develops in women younger than 20.3
- In India, cervical cancer accounted for 9.4% of all cancers and 18.3% (123,907) of new cases in 2020.4
Gynecological cancer symptoms and signs:5
Each gynecologic cancer has its sign and symptoms and is not the same for everyone.
Symptoms of gynecologic cancer are as follows:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding/discharge
- Difficulty in eating, bloating.
- Abdominal or back pain/Pelvic pain
- Frequently urinate/constipation
- Itching, burning, pain, or tenderness of the vulva
Risk factors for Gynecological cancer:6
- Smoking – It weakens the immune system, which can lead to persistent HPV infection and causes cervical cancer.
- Age – increases with age, around the time of menopause, may rise the chances of gynecologic cancer.
- Taking estrogen alone without progesterone.
- Diabetes or high blood glucose
- Diethylstilbesterol (DES)- A hormone medicine used many years ago during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage.
Physical limitations and psychological challenges brought on by cancer therapy and its effects may prevent sexual reactivation. Some women may experience body image disorders, negative auto-judgmental thoughts, depression, and anxiety – all of which may aggravate sexual and social functioning. Also, partners of the affected women face problems with sexuality, intimacy, and psychological strain, resulting from the sense of distress, burden, and changes within the relationship. 7
Intraoperative complications include hemorrhage and injury to the bladder, bowel, vessels, and nerves. Postoperative complications include venous thromboembolism (VTE), gastrointestinal dysfunction, infection, impaired wound healing, and lymphatic problems.8
Treatment for gynecologic cancer:
Surgery – This is a procedure to remove cancer tissue in an operation. Generally, different methods are beneficial for treating various forms of gynecologic cancer. Surgery typically involves the removal of the tumor but might also include the removal of the cervix, uterus, ovaries, or other pelvic organs.9, 10
Chemotherapy – It uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer. It is either given by mouth or injected into the vein.9
Radiation therapy – This uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.9
Immunotherapy – This includes the stimulation of the immune system to support the body in better fighting gynecologic cancer.10
Hormone therapy – Uses hormones to treat and prevent recurrences of some types of gynecologic cancers.10
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy – A complex and distinctive medical procedure that uses a catheter to administer medication right into the abdominal cavity. It is used in some cases of ovarian cancer and targets cancer cells in the abdomen directly, reducing medication exposure to healthy organs.10
Lifestyle Changes: Maintain healthy habits that lower the risk for gynecologic cancers.
Avoid tobacco: Studies have linked tobacco use to gynecologic cancer, so quitting smoking can help you lower your risk.
Diet and exercise: Your diet should be rich in fruit and vegetables and try to get 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Early Detection: Most women with cervical precancerous lesions report no symptoms, so it is important to get regular screenings before symptoms are present.
Prophylactic Surgery: At high risk of gynecologic cancer, such as ovarian cancer, the doctor may advise surgery to remove one or both ovaries.
Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month in September is essential to be celebrated since it brings to light information regarding different gynecologic cancers, and how they affect women across the globe.12
Due to the threat of such critical cancers, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month was formed by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC). The purpose behind the month was to spread awareness and encourage research that provides a cure to the thousands of women suffering and aware to the public about the different types of gynecologic cancer, their risk factors, ways to prevent them, new developments in therapy, and the current survival rate of those who have it.
- Gynecological Cancers: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment. Available at: https://cytecare.com/blog/gynecological-cancers-types-symptoms-and-treatment/. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- What Is Gynecologic Cancer? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/basic_info/what-is-gynecologic-cancer.htm. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html#. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- Mehrotra R, Yadav K. Cervical Cancer: Formulation and Implementation of Govt of India Guidelines for Screening and Management. Indian J Gynecol Oncol. 2022;20(1):4.
- What Are the Symptoms? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/basic_info/symptoms.htm#. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- Risk factors. Available at: https://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/gynecologic-cancers/risk-prevention/risk-factors. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- Iżycki D, Woźniak K, Iżycka N. Consequences of gynecological cancer in patients and their partners from the sexual and psychological perspective. PrzMenopauzalny. 2016 Jun;15(2):112-6.
- Horvath S, George E, Herzog TJ. Unintended consequences: surgical complications in gynecologic cancer. Women’s Health (Lond). 2013 Nov;9(6):595-604.
- How Are Gynecologic Cancers Treated? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/basic_info/treatment.htm. Assessed on 3rd September 2022.
- Gynecologic Cancer Treatments. Available at: https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/gynecologic-cancer/gynecologic-cancer-treatments/. Assessed on 3rd September 2022.
- Gynecologic Cancer Prevention. Available at: https://www.dignityhealth.org/sacramento/services/cancer-care/types-of-cancer/gynecologic-cancer/gynecologic-cancer-prevention#. Assessed on 18th August 2022.
- Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month – September 2022. Available at: https://nationaltoday.com/gynecologic-cancer-awareness-month/. Assessed on 18th August 2022.