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Knowing the Symptoms of GYN Cancers Can Save Your Life
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Raising awareness to the signs and symptoms of ovarian and gynecologic cancers is the primary mission of A State of Teal.

Gynecologic cancers are cancers that develop in the female genital tract, including cancers of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina or vulva. Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs, symptoms, and risk factors. While cancer of the uterus is the most commonly diagnosed of these, cancer of the ovaries is the most deadly.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms, risk factors, treatments, and screening tests of all GYN cancers by visiting the CDC's website.


Cervical Cancer
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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.  There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can't tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life. Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up.

 All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.

 

Factors that can increase your risk of cervical cancer:

·         Smoking

·         Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems

·         Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years)

·         Having given birth to three or more children

·         Having several sexual partners

 

What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

Get Screened:

The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. The Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available.

If you are 21–65 years old, it is important for you to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. If you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids, your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have a Pap test anymore.

If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then tell you that you can wait as long as five years for your next screening. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup.

The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

Get Vaccinated:

Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines also can be given to girls as young as 9 years of age. It is recommended that females get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible. It is important to note that women who are vaccinated against HPV still need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.


Ovarian Cancer
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Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. But when ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment works best.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women. About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older. Ovarian cancer often causes signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you.

 

Ovarian cancer may cause one or more of these signs and symptoms:

·         Vaginal bleeding or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you

·         Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area (the area below your stomach and between your hip bones)

·         Back pain

·         Bloating, which is when the area below your stomach swells or feels full

·         Feeling full quickly while eating

·         A change in your bathroom habits, such as having to pass urine very badly or very often, constipation, or diarrhea

 

If you have vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you, see a doctor right away. Also see a doctor if you have any of the other signs for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you. These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor. Ask your doctor if you should have a diagnostic test, like a rectovaginal pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test if:

·         You have any unexplained signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer. These tests sometimes help find or rule out ovarian cancer

·         You have had breast, uterine, or colorectal (colon) cancer, or a close relative has had ovarian cancer

·         You have a genetic mutation (abnormality) in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or one associated with Lynch syndrome

 

 

Factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer:

·         Being middle-aged or older

·         Having close family members (such as your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother) on either your mother's or your father's side,                who have had ovarian cancer

·         Having a genetic mutation (abnormality) called BRCA1 or BRCA2 or one associated with Lynch syndrome

·         Having had breast, uterine, colorectal, cervical or melanoma cancer

·         Having an Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background

·         Having never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant

·         Having endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body)

In addition, some studies suggest that women who take estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

If one or more of these factors is true for you, it does not mean you will get ovarian cancer. But you should speak with your doctor about your risk.

 

There is no screening/early detection test for ovarian cancer. The Pap test does not check for ovarian cancer. The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer. Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancer except for cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize warning signs, and learn what you can do to reduce your risk.

The earlier ovarian cancer is found and treated, the more likely treatment will be effective.


Uterine/Endometrial Cancer
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The most common type of uterine cancer is also called endometrial cancer because it forms in the lining of your uterus, called the endometrium. When uterine cancer is found early, treatment works best.

All women are at risk for uterine cancer, but the risk increases with age. Most uterine cancers are found in women who are going through or who have gone through menopause—the time of life when your menstrual periods stop.

Uterine cancer may cause vaginal discharge or bleeding that is not normal for you. Bleeding may be abnormal because of how heavy it is or when it happens, such as after you have gone through menopause, between periods, or any other bleeding that is longer or heavier than is normal for you. Uterine cancer may also cause other symptoms, such as pain or pressure in your pelvis.

If you have bleeding that is not normal for you, especially if you have already gone through menopause, see a doctor right away. Also see a doctor if you have any other signs or symptoms for two weeks or longer. These things may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.

 

 Factors that can increase your risk of uterine/endometrial cancer:

·         Being older than 50

·         Being obese (have an abnormally high, unhealthy amount of body fat)

·         Taking estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for hormone replacement during menopause

·         Having had trouble getting pregnant, or have had fewer than five periods in a year before starting menopause

·         Taking tamoxifen, a drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer

·         Having close family members who have had uterine, colon, or ovarian cancer

If one or more of these things is true for you, it does not mean you will get uterine cancer. But you should speak with your doctor to see if he or she recommends more frequent exams.

 

If you have symptoms or believe you may be at high risk for uterine cancer, your doctor may perform an endometrial biopsy or a transvaginal ultrasound. These tests can be used to help diagnose or rule out uterine cancer. Your doctor may do this test in his or her office, or may refer you to another doctor. The doctor might perform more tests if the endometrial biopsy does not provide enough information, or if symptoms continue. The Pap test does not screen for uterine cancer. The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer.


Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers
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Vulvar cancer most often occurs on the inner edges of the labia. Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. While all women are at risk for these cancers, very few will get them.

 Early on, most vaginal cancers do not cause signs and symptoms. But if there are symptoms, they may include:

·         Vaginal discharge and bleeding that is not normal for you (the bleeding may be abnormal because

          of how heavy it is, or when it happens, such as bleeding after you have gone through menopause;

          bleeding between periods; or any other bleeding that is longer or heavier than is normal for you)

·         A change in bathroom habits, such as having blood in the stool or urine; going to the bathroom

          more often than usual; or feeling constipated

·         Pain in your pelvis, the area below your stomach and in between your hip bones, especially when

          you pass urine ot have sex

 

Many women who have vulvar cancer have signs and symptoms. They may include:

·         Itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva that does not go away

·         Changes in the color of the skin of the vulva, so that it looks redder or whiter than is normal for you

·         Skin changes in the vulva, including what looks like a rash or warts

·         Sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva that do not go away

·         Pain in your pelvis, especially when you urinate or have sex

It is important for you to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you, see a doctor right away. Also see a doctor if you have any of the other symptoms for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.

 

 Factors that may increase your risk of vaginal/vulvar cancers:

·         Having HPV

·         Having had cervical precancer or cervical cancer

·         Having a condition that weakens your immune system (such as HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS), making it harder for your

          body to fight off health problems

·         Smoking

·         Having chronic vulvar itching or burning

 

If one or more of these things is true for you, it does not mean you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer. But you should speak with your doctor to see if he or she recommends more frequent exams.

 

 What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

Get Vaccinated:

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.  There are more than 100 different types of HPV and 30 of the types can be passed from one person to another during sex.  Almost all cervical cancers and some vaginal and vulvar cancers are caused by HPV.

Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines also can be given to girls as young as 9 years of age. It is recommended that females get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible. It is important to note that women who are vaccinated against HPV still need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.

The Pap test does not screen for vaginal or vulvar cancers. Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancers except cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize warning signs, and learn what you can do to reduce your risk.