Those women at risk of or diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer should be managed by a specialist gynaecological cancer surgeon (AKA gynaecological oncologist). Clear evidence shows that treatment by a gynaecological cancer surgeon lead to a better long-term outcome and improved long-term survival.
Every woman is at risk of developing cancer of the female reproductive organs. Most women that develop symptoms of a gynaecological cancer DO NOT end up having that diagnosis. Regardless of this, it is a stressful situation to go through. People often feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious and upset at the risk of or even after a diagnosis of cancer. These are all normal feelings.Emotional and practical support during and after diagnosis is extremely important. Support can be provided by Dr Richards, specialised gynaecological cancer services or even family and friends.
Gynaecological cancers are named according to the organ or part of the body where they first develop, including ovary, uterus, cervix, vagina and vulva.
Ovarian cancer — affects the ovaries, a pair of solid, oval-shaped organs producing hormones and eggs (ova).
Uterine cancer — begins in the main body of the uterus, a hollow organ about the size and shape of an upside-down pear. The uterus is where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
Cervical cancer — begins in the cervix, the lower, cylinder-shaped part of the uterus. Its upper margin is connected to the uterus, while its lower margin is connected to the vagina.
Vaginal cancer — begins in the vagina (also called the birth canal), a muscular tube-like channel that extends from the cervix to the external part of the females sex organs (vulva).
Vulval cancer — begins in the vulva, the outer part of the female reproductive system. It includes the opening of the vagina, the inner and outer lips (also called labia minora and labia majora), the clitoris and the mons pubis (soft, fatty mound of tissue, above the labia).
Other types of gynaecological cancers include fallopian tube cancer and placenta cancer (a pregnancy-related cancer).
Symptoms of gynaecological cancer depend on what organ is involved and them woman’s general practitioner is aware of the important signs to look out for. Women should be aware that the following symptoms are concerning and warrant further investigation. These include
- abnormal or persistent vaginal bleeding e.g. bleeding after menopause or that is not part of the menstrual periods, bleeding after sex
- unusual vaginal discharge
- pain, pressure or discomfort in the abdomen
- swelling of the abdomen
- change in bowel or bladder habits
- pain during sex
- itching, burning or soreness
- lumps, sores or wart-like growths.
It must be remembered that there are several non-cancerous condition that will also cause these symptoms, but women should seek investigation from their general practitioner is any of these are experienced.