Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic Cancer is any cancer that begins in a woman’s reproductive organs. There are 5 main types of gynecologic cancer. These can begin in different places within the pelvis. The five areas most commonly affected are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. Each cancer is unique and provides different risk factors and preventative strategies. As with most cancers, treatment is most effective with early detection.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).

Risk Factors Include:

– Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)
– Smoking
– A Weakened Immune System
– Chlamydia Infection
– Diet Low in Fruit and Vegetables
– Obesity
– Long-Term Use of Oral Contraceptives
– Intrauterine Device Use
– Multiple Full-Term Pregnancies
– Diethylstilbestrol
– First Full-Term Pregnancy Before 17
– Family History of Cervical Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancers were previously believed to begin only in the ovaries, but recent evidence suggests that many ovarian cancers may actually start in the cells in the far (distal) end of the fallopian tubes. Ovarian Cancer can be broken into three tumor types. Epithelial tumors which start from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary (most ovarian tumors are epithelial cell tumors), Germ cell tumors that start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova), and Stromal tumors that start from structural tissue cells that hold the ovary together and produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Risk Factors Include:

– Age
– Full-Term Pregnancies Later in Life
– Use of Fertility Treatment
– Hormone Therapy After Menopause
– Family History of Ovarian, Breast, or Colorectal Cancer
– Breast Cancer
– Smoking

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer is a rare cancer that starts in the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus (womb). The most common uterine cancer is Uterine Sarcoma. Most uterine cancers are put into categories, based on the type of cell they start in. The two most common types are Uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS) that start in the muscular wall of the uterus and Endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS) that starts in the supporting connective tissue (stroma) of the lining of the uterus. Both of these are rare cancers and most types of uterine cancers fall into the category of benign uterine tumors.

Risk Factors Include:

– Pelvic Radiation Therapy
– Race (Uterine sarcomas are about twice as common in African-American women as they are in white or Asian women. The reason for this is unknown.)
– RB Gene Changes

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal Cancer starts in the vagina. There are many different types of vaginal cancer, but the most common is called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. It starts in the lining of the vagina. Nearly 9 out of 10 cases of vaginal cancer are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers start in the squamous cells that make up the epithelial lining of the vagina. They’re most common in the upper part of the vagina near the cervix. If not treated, they can grow deeper into and, over time, through the vaginal wall and spread to nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body, most often the lungs, but also the liver and bones.

Risk Factors Include:

– Age
– Diethylstilbestrol
– Vaginal Adenosis
– Human Papillomavirus
– Cervical Cancer
– Smoking
– Alcohol Use
– Human Immunodeficiency Virus
– Vaginal Irritation

Vulvar Cancer

Cancer of the vulva (also known as vulvar cancer) most often affects the inner edges of the labia majora or the labia minora. It starts in the clitoris or in the Bartholin glands less often. Like Vaginal Cancer, the most common type is Squamous Cell Carcinomas. This type of cancer starts in squamous cells, the main type of skin cells. There are several subtypes of squamous cell carcinoma.

Risk Factors Include:

– Age
– Human Papillomavirus
– Smoking
– HIV Infection
– Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia
– Lichen Sclerosus
– Genital Cancer
– Melanoma or Atypical Moles

*The above descriptions and factors were written by the medical and editorial content team at The American Cancer Society. Reference avialable Here.

How Our Team Treats Gynecologic Cancer

At the Radiation Oncology Services at Charleston Area Medical Center, we treat gynecologic cancers non-invasively with radiation therapy. When gynecologic cancers are treated with radiation, several types are commonly used. We use external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) to deliver high-energy X-rays to cancer cells, damaging their ability to multiply. Treatments only take about 15 to 30 minutes and side effects are usually minimal. Several factors determine candidacy for radiation therapy treatment including the stage of the cancer, potential side effects, age, and overall health.

Radiation Oncology Services at CAMC’s Advantage

  • Few to no side effects
  • Noninvasive
  • Outpatient procedure lasting 10-15 minutes daily
  • Minimal to no recovery time
  • Return to your normal activities following treatment

Speak with one of our dedicated Team Members about how we can help today.