Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month- September

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month- September 2020

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month- September

 

The first line of defence against any disease is to be aware of it. This is the major purpose of awareness campaigns worldwide; recognising the need for awareness about the disease, and educate people to identify the symptoms and know what to do when they have these symptoms. It is with this aim that cancer organisations all around the world consider September as the Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. Gynecologic cancer is an umbrella term used to denote all the types of cancer that start in a woman’s reproductive organ. There are mainly five types of gynecologic cancer:

 

  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer.

 

There are also cancers such as Gestational Trophoblastic Disease and Primary Peritoneal cancer that come under Gynecologic cancer, but these are comparatively rare occurrences. The Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity to put the spotlight on this disease and provide crucial information on the signs, risk factors, prevention strategies and treatment options of the disease.

 

Gynecologic cancers are often hard to diagnose and are mostly found out only in the third or fourth stage of cancer. Therefore, recognising the silent symptoms is very important to early diagnosis and cure.

 

Gynecologic Cancer Symptoms

 

Each type of gynecologic cancer has different symptoms, most of which are hard to recognise. Therefore it is very crucial that women pay attention to their body and take note of the slightest abnormalities. If these abnormalities stay for a longer period, then you should consult a doctor. Some of the common signs of Gynecologic cancer, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention are:

 

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge.
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Bloating
  • Itching and burning of the vulva
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Changes in the colour of the vulva

 

Types of Gynecologic Cancers

 

  1. Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is the most common type of Gynecologic cancer found in women. It is the cancer that forms in the different tissues of the uterus, the most common being endometrial cancer.

 

Risk Factors of Uterine Cancer:

 

  • Risk increases with age
  • Obesity
  • Taking estrogen alone as hormone replacement
  • Family history of cancer
  • Most common in women after menopause

 

  1. Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the cancer that starts in the ovaries. While it accounts for about 3% of cancers in women, ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among women due to cancer. While Ovarian cancer can be easily treated if diagnosed at an early stage, only 20% of cases are found at this stage. This is because most of the symptoms of Ovarian cancer are hard to find, and there aren’t any screening tests that are recommended for women without any symptoms. Due to this, ovarian cancer is also known as the “Silent Cancer”.

 

Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer:

 

  • Risk increases with age
  • Family history of cancer
  • Inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Endometriosis
  • Obesity

 

  1. Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the cancer that forms in the tissues of the cervix. There are usually no symptoms of cervical cancer, but can be found with a screening test called Pap Test or HPV Test. At later stages, the symptoms such as vaginal discharge or bleeding and pain during sex may appear, which should be immediately consulted. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes almost all cervical cancers, and therefore cervical cancers at the early stages can be treated with an HPV vaccine.

 

Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer:

 

  • Being infected with HPV
  • Having HIV
  • Smoking
  • Using birth control pills for a long time
  • Having given birth to three or more children
  • Having several sexual partners

 

  1. Vaginal Cancer

The cancer that starts in the vagina is vaginal cancer. Vaginal cancer is very rare and has a high survival rate. Pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding are the most common symptoms of vaginal cancers.

 

Risk Factors of Vaginal Cancer:

 

  • Infected with HPV for a long time.
  • History of cervical precancer or cervical cancer
  • History of vulvar or vaginal precancer
  • Weak immune system
  • Smoking

 

  1. Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer is a comparatively rare disease in which cancer forms in the tissues of the vulva, the female genitalia. Vulvar cancer accounts for about 5 % of all gynecologic cancers and is mostly associated with HPV infection, just like cervical or vaginal cancer. Vulvar cancers can be detected in regular gynecologic exams and can be treated with HPV vaccines.

 

Risk Factors of Vulvar Cancer:

 

  • Infected with HPV for a long time
  • Chronic vulvar itching or burning
  • History of cervical precancer or cervical cancer
  • History of vulvar or vaginal precancer
  • Infected with HIV
  • Smoking

 

Gynecologic Cancer Screening

 

The comforting factor about gynecologic cancers is that regular screenings can find most of these cancers early enough, and early diagnosis of gynecologic cancers can aid in a better prognosis. Also, some gynecologic cancers such as cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers can be prevented with the HPV vaccine and lifestyle changes.

 

There are several tests, such as the Pap Test and the HPV test, which can diagnose these cancers quickly. The HPV test looks for HPV infection and can be used in combination with Pap test to screen for cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

 

The most effective method to screen for gynecologic cancers is to be aware of your body so that even the slightest changes can be noted.

 

Gynecologic Cancer Treatment

 

Gynecologic cancers have several treatment procedures that differ according to factor such as the kind of cancer, its stage, area of growth and age and vitals of the patient. The most common treatment procedures used are:

 

Surgery – The surgeons remove the cancer tissues in operation. In most cases, this will be followed by cycles of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

 

Chemotherapy – Using drugs to eliminate the cancer cells. The drugs can be orally taken or administered through the veins. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is an innovative treatment procedure that delivers the drugs directly into the abdominal cavity using a catheter. This reduces drug exposure to healthy cells.

 

Immunotherapy – Treatment procedure that aims to stimulate the immune system to help the body fight the cancer cells better.

 

Hormone therapy – Treatment procedure that uses hormones to treat and prevent recurrences of cancer cells.

 

Radiotherapy – Using high energy rays to kill the cancer. Can be used as a primary or post-operative method of treatment. Brachytherapy is an advanced kind of radiotherapy which kills the cancer cells without affecting the surrounding organs.

 

Need for Awareness

 

The treatment procedures of gynecologic cancer are becoming more innovative and better with focus given on minimising the effects of the treatment on the nearby healthy organs and tissues. Extensive research is focused on saving the reproductive organs with minimal damage in younger women who haven’t conceived yet, giving them a chance to become mothers.

 

The increased awareness has successfully brought down the death rates of Gynecologic cancers such as cervical cancer in the last 40 years. This is attributed to the increased number of women getting screened and doing Pap smears. But this is just the start of the journey. As more women get screened and diagnosed early, cancer can be treated as any other regular disease, and this is the objective aimed through awareness campaigns like the Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.

 

To read more about gynecologic cancer, go to our website ZenOnco.io. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer recently, and need guidance on treatment or have any doubts or queries, please call ZenOnco.io on +91 99 30 70 90 00.