March 9, 2023

4 Female Cancers All Women Should Know About

4 Female Cancers All Women Should Know About

Even though breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in the United States, it isn’t the only cancer that regularly affects women. Gynecologic cancers, or cancers of the female reproductive system, are also a concern.

Some common types of gynecologic cancers include ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and cervical cancer. There are several diferent types of gynecologic cancers that all women should be aware of, including:

  1. Endometrial cancer

  2. Ovarian cancer

  3. Cervical cancer

  4. Uterine sarcoma

Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecologic cancer, followed by ovarian cancer, although they’re not the only types. Every woman should be aware of these and if there are ways to detect the cancers early, when they are easier to treat.

1. Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is usually referred to as uterine cancer since it’s the most common type. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus. Endometrial cancer is cancer that grows in this area and is the most common type of gynecologic cancer.

Many of the risk factors of endometrial cancer are the same as those of ovarian cancer. Some risk factors that are unique to endometrial cancer include:

  • Endometrial hyperplasia or thickening of the endometrium

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Taking the medications Tamoxifen

  • Having type 2 diabetes.

The most common sign of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, but other common signs include:

  • Difficulty urinating or pain when urinating

  • Pain during sex

  • Pressure or pain in the pelvis

Endometrial cancer is commonly found in the early stages, making it easier to treat. A standard treatment for endometrial cancer is surgery, but treatment will vary depending on the cancer’s stage and the patient’s unique situation. Whether the cancer has spread is a big factor that will affect treatment. Your doctor may also recommend chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy to treat endometrial cancer.

2. Ovarian Cancer

Cancer that starts in the ovaries or fallopian tubes is considered ovarian cancer. This is the second most common type of gynecologic cancer after uterine cancer. There are some risk factors that make you more likely to develop ovarian cancer, some of which are preventable and some that are not.

Common risk factors of ovarian cancer include:

  • Genetic factors. Certain genetic mutations, such as those that affect the inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

  • Weight. Obesity or being overweight.

  • Family history. If someone in your immediate family has developed ovarian cancer, then you are more likely to develop it as well.

  • Never having been pregnant. This may be because, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you ovulate less frequently. Scientists believe that regular ovulation can cause damage to the lining of the ovaries. Studies suggest that a single pregnancy can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, and multiple pregnancies have an even greater reduction in risk.

  • Hormone replacement therapy, such as using estrogen or progesterone replacement therapy after menopause.

Ovarian cancer is commonly diagnosed during the later stages, making it harder to treat. This is usually because the symptoms can be vague, and there are no official screening tests that are used to identify ovarian cancer. This means that even routine cancer screenings can miss the presence of ovarian cancer.

If ovarian cancer develops symptoms they can include:

  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvis

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, often bloody. This is especially notable if you are past the age of having a regular menstrual cycle.

  • Bloating that doesn’t go away

  • Frequent urination

  • Feeling full all the time, even if you haven’t eaten much

If you’re experiencing any type of unusual symptom, then it is a good idea to visit your doctor. Just because you have one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer, but it could be a cause for concern, so finding the cause is important.

Ovarian cancer is commonly treated with surgery to remove the tumor and then followed up with other treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and/or hormone therapy. Your doctor will help develop a unique ovarian cancer treatment plan to fit your needs based on your overall health, the stage of the cancer, the size and type of the tumor, and more.

3. Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that initially begins in the cells of the cervix. There are two different types of cervical cancer that can impact women. The first is squamous cell carcinoma. This type is responsible for approximately 90% of all cervical cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells of the ectocervix, which is the outer portion of the cervix that leads to the vagina.

The second type of cervical cancer is adenocarcinoma. This cancer begins in the glandular cells of the cervix.

There are several early and later-stage warning signs of cervical cancer, so it is important to monitor yourself for these conditions and seek medical advice if you have any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. These include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after sex

  • Vaginal bleeding after the completion of menopause

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, or periods that last longer than usual

  • Pain during sex

  • Vaginal discharge that is watery has a strong odor, or contains blood.

  • Painful bowel movements that can contain blood

  • Painful urination or blood in the urine

  • Fatigue

  • Swelling in the legs

  • Dull and persistent back pain

  • Pain in the abdomen

Screening for cervical cancer is the Pap test included as part of your regular gynecologic exam. An HPV test may also be run to see if an infection is currently active. Your age will be the major factor for routine screening schedules, but if you notice any symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor.

There are a variety of treatment options for cervical cancers, including surgery, radiation therapies, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Due to the variety of treatment options, it is important to work closely with your gynecologic oncologist to determine the best treatment option for you.

4. Uterine Sarcoma

Uterine sarcoma is another type of uterine cancer that is less common than endometrial cancer. Uterine sarcoma develops in the muscles that support the tissues of the uterus.

Common risk factors for uterine sarcoma include:

  • Race. African American women are more likely to develop this disease than women of other races.

  • Past cancer treatment. Past treatment for other cancers, such as radiation therapy to the pelvis or taking tamoxifen for breast cancer, can make uterine sarcoma more likely.

Common signs of uterine sarcoma include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding (including after menopause)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Pelvic pain or a palpable mass in the pelvis

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

  • Unexplained fullness or appetite change

Treatment varies from patient to patient. Your gynecologic oncologist will consider certain factors to determine what treatment route is best, including cancer’s stage, type, and location. Surgical treatment with a total hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, is a common approach.

Your doctor may also recommend radiation therapy along with surgery or as the main treatment. Radiation or chemotherapy before surgery can help shrink the size of the tumor and make the surgery easier. Getting these treatments done after surgery can destroy any remaining cancer cells helping make remission less likely.

Gynecologic Cancer Care in the South Chicago Suburbs

The cancer specialists at Affiliated Oncologists are here to guide you every step of the way so that you don’t have to feel alone on your cancer journey. The specialists of the Gynecologic Cancer Institute of Chicago are now a division of Affiliated Oncologists, making it possible to provide necessary surgeries and the most advanced treatments for female reproductive cancers. Our team uses the latest in minimally-invasive, robot-assisted surgery to help shorten recovery time.

We are proud to serve the greater Chicago area, including Downers Grove and Oak Lawn, Illinois. If you’ve received a gynecologic cancer diagnosis, request an appointment at one of our locations.


Categories: Gynecologic Cancers