A woman’s reproductive system is unique. That system is capable of contributing half the genetic material to create a child, and then has the unique ability to provide the optimal environment for that child to grow. The gynecological system is a remarkable component of the body, but just as susceptible to the formation of cancer as other areas.
Gynecologic cancers begin in the reproductive organs of women, advises Yale Medicine. Cancer can affect the cervix, ovaries, uterus and endometrium, vagina, and vulva. More rarely, cancer can occur in the fallopian tubes, indicates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is currently only one screening test for gynecologic cancers, and that test detects the presence of cervical cancer. Women are urged to have a Pap test at regular intervals indicated by their doctors to detect cervical cancer early when treatment can be most effective. Other gynecologic cancers are only detected through the presence of symptoms, which include:
– abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
– pelvic pain
– urgent or frequent urination
Among the gynecologic cancers, uterine (endometrial) cancer is the most common type, reports the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. More than 49,500 Americans are diagnosed with this disease each year, and it tends to develop after menopause. Ovarian cancer is the second most common type of gynecologic cancer in the United States, impacting around one in 70 women. Cervical cancer used to be the most serious of cancers for women, according to MSKCC. However, thanks to screening, most people diagnosed with this illness can now be cured.
Yale Medicine states there are various factors that put a person at increased risk for developing gynecologic cancer. Contraction of the human papillomavirus is one of them. Age (most patients are over age 50), genetics and exposure to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic form of estrogen used between 1940 and 1971, are additional risk factors.
Imaging tests, screenings, conversations with doctors, and being cognizant of body changes are some ways to detect gynecologic cancers early. While there is no way to completely avoid cancers of the female reproductive system, identifying risks and seeking help as early as possible can make gynecologic cancers much more treatable.
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