Northside Hospital - It’s easy to ignore signs of gynecological (GYN) cancers

It’s easy to ignore signs of gynecological (GYN) cancers

Women do it all. Raise children, work, care for elderly parents and family members, run a household — and so much more. But while they’re so busy taking care of everyone else they’re not always taking care of themselves. That’s why it’s important to listen and be aware of your body, especially when it is telling you something is a little off.  

Figure out what is normal for you. What is normal for one woman is not always the same as what’s normal for another. Then listen.

Is your body saying:

  • I have pain and pressure in my abdomen
  • I feel persistent bloating for no good reason
  • I’m spotting, but I’m postmenopausal
  • I have to go to the bathroom more often and urgently than usual
  • I get full too fast

These symptoms could simply be a mild inconvenience. But if these symptoms are not going away, they may be signs of a gynecological cancer, like cervical, ovarian or endometrial (uterine). Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organ.

Women need to have annual well-woman visits, including regular pelvic exams, in an effort to detect disease at its earliest stage. Those 20 minutes with your gynecologist could reveal more about your health than you realize.

Many women aren’t diligent enough about getting routine Pap tests, either. A Pap test can detect cervical cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Pap tests can also detect precancerous cells that can be removed to prevent cervical cancer altogether.

The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer, the third most common type of cancer in women. It does not screen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers. So, even if you have a Pap test, see your doctor annually. If you have symptoms that last for two weeks or longer and are not normal to you, make an appointment and discuss your concerns. It may be nothing to worry about, but find out for sure.

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. In addition, certain types of cancer, such as ovarian and endometrial, may have a genetic link. When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.


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