Gynaecological cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. It can begin in different places within a women’s pelvis – the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. There are different types of gynaecological cancers, namely cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer. All women are at risk of gynaecologic cancer and the risk increases with age.
There are different things that cause gynaecologic cancer. Research has found that some genes promote the growth of cancer. The abnormal genes can be acquired (through smoking, aging and environmental factors) or inherited. Almost all cervical cancers and some cancers of the vagina and vulva are caused by a virus called HPV or Human Papilloma Virus.
Signs & Symptoms
It is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. This way you will recognise the warnings signs or symptoms of gynaecologic cancer. See a healthcare practitioner if you have vaginal bleeding that is abnormal for you or warning signs that lasts for longer than two weeks. These may include:
- abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
- pelvic pain or pressure
- abdominal or back pain
- changes in bathroom habits
- itching or burning of the vulva
- changes in vulva colour or skin such as a rash, sores or warts.
Some gynaecologic cancers are caused by HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. The more sexual partners a woman have, the better her chances of contracting the infection. Abstain from sex, stay faithful to one partner or always use a condom. You can screen for cervical cancer by having a Pap smear. The Pap smear can prevent cervical cancer by finding pre-cancers that can become cancer if it is not treated in time. Because there is no simple and reliable way to test for gynaecologic cancers (except cervical cancer) it is very important to listen to your body and find warning signs.
There are different ways to treat gynaecologic cancer. The treatment depends on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. You may get more than one kind of treatment.