Gynecologic Cancers: Know How to Identify Them

Jul 17 • 2015

A gynecologic cancer is one that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. This includes cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Each of these cancer types is unique and has different signs, symptoms, and risk factors. Every woman is at risk for gynecologic cancer and this risk grows as you get older.

Like other cancers, early detection is extremely important. If you notice that you have unusual vaginal bleeding, speak with your doctor immediately. Below are the warning signs for each type of gynecologic cancer:

  • Cervical cancer: abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Ovarian cancer: abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge; pelvic pain or pressure; abdominal or back pain; bloating; changes in bathroom habits
  • Uterine cancer: abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge; pelvic pain or pressure
  • Vaginal cancer: abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge; changes in bathroom habits
  • Vulvar cancer: pelvic pain or pressure; itching or burning in the vulva; changes in vulva color or skin, including rashes, sores, or warts

There are a few different ways that women can minimize their risk of developing a gynecologic cancer. Some are caused by the human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted infection. There are several vaccines that prevent against this and can be given to both girls and boys beginning at age nine. There are screening tests for cervical cancer that can help identify the disease before you notice any symptoms. This can help you find issues early, which results in more effective treatment. However, because there are no reliable ways to screen for other gynecologic cancers, it is very important that you know how to recognize the warning signs and speak to your doctor immediately if you notice anything suspicious.

It is estimated that there will be around 98,000 new cases of gynecologic cancer diagnosed and approximately 30,000 deaths from these kinds of cancers in the United States this year alone. Make sure you know the warning signs and educate the other women in your life about the importance of early detection.