5 Cancers Women Should Know About

Gynecologic cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells that first appear in the female reproductive organs. These can include the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva.

Many of these cancers are linked to aging, genetics, and some lifestyle and environmental factors. If you know your risks, you can take action to lower your odds of getting these cancers.

1.Ovarian cancer

•What it is: Ovarian cancer is one of the most serious of the gynecologic cancers. It usually starts on the surface of the ovary or in the egg cells. It’s often not diagnosed until it’s in the advanced stages.
•Symptoms: Ovarian cancer may not cause obvious symptoms in its early stages. As it progresses, symptoms may include pressure or fullness in the pelvis, abdominal swelling, bloating or changes in bowel habits (such as gas, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea), and feeling very tired.
•Risk factors: Risk increases with age, especially around menopause. Other risks include having a family or personal history of ovarian cancer, never being pregnant, and perhaps taking estrogen-only hormone therapy for many years to treat menopause symptoms.
2.Uterine or endometrial cancer

•What it is: Most uterine cancers start in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) after menopause. Those cells in the lining that grow out of control and invade the uterine tissue typically cause uterine cancer.
•Symptoms: Warning signs may include unusual vaginal bleeding, any bleeding after menopause, difficult or painful urination, pain during sex, and pelvic pain.
•Risk factors: Many of the risk factors for these cancers have to do with the body’s estrogen levels. Estrogen-related factors include being obese (fatty tissue makes estrogen), using estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy, taking the estrogen-like medication tamoxifen to treat breast cancer, starting menstruation early or menopause late, and never being pregnant. Also, being white or having a certain inherited form of colorectal cancer raises the risk of getting uterine cancer.
3.Cervical cancer

•What it is: Cervical cancer is caused by abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, the opening to the uterus.
•Symptoms: Cervical cancer can cause bleeding after sex, vaginal discharge, and abnormal bleeding between periods.
•Risk factors: Having human papillomavirus infection (HPV) is the main risk factor. HPV infections are very common, but some types can cause precancerous changes that may turn into cervical cancer. HPV is passed through sexual contact. Smoking raises the risk of cervical cancer in women with HPV. Regular Pap tests can help detect precancerous cells to prevent cervical cancer.
4.Vulvar cancer

•What it is: Vulvar cancer is an uncommon cancer of the external female genitals, which include the vaginal lips and opening to the vagina. It is a slow-growing cancer and is most common in older women.
•Symptoms: Itching in the vulvar area that lasts for more than a month is the most common symptom. Pain, bleeding, burning, and discharge may also occur.
•Risk factors: Age is a risk factor for vulvar cancer. Most women with this cancer are over 50. Having the HPV or human papilloma virus infection also raises the risk for vulvar cancer, especially if it develops in women younger than 40. HPV can cause precancerous changes like those that can lead to cervical cancer. Smoking raises the risk of vulvar cancer in women with HPV.
5.Vaginal cancer

•What it is: This is a rare type of cancer that forms inside the vaginal canal. It also is most common in older women.
•Symptoms: Early vaginal cancer often has no symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they typically include pain, discharge, and bleeding.
•Risk factors: The HPV infection is also linked to vaginal cancer. Having cervical cancer or precancerous cells in the cervix raises the risk for vaginal cancer. Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages while pregnant have an increased risk for vaginal cancer.
Lowering your risk
Knowing your family history can increase your chance of early diagnosis and help you take action toward prevention. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes play a large role in preventing cancer. Finally, screening and self-examinations done regularly can detect certain types of reproductive cancers in their earlier stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Have regular check-ups and report these symptoms to your doctor:

•Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
•A sore that does not heal
•Pain or pressure in the pelvic area
•A persistent change in bowel or bladder habits
•Frequent indigestion or abdominal bloating
•A thickening or lump that either causes pain or can be seen or felt

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