What do you know about Gynaecological Cancers?
Every year, over 1 million women worldwide are diagnosed with gynaecologic cancers with cervical, uterine and ovarian cancers being the most common.
Gynaecological cancers take away the lives of thousands of women each year, globally, therefore, getting informed about them is crucial towards the fight against cancers affecting women.
Overview on Gynaecological Cancer
Gynaecological cancers are cancers that begin in the female reproductive organs including the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries. The main types of gynaecological cancers include cervical, vulvar, vaginal, ovarian and Uterine cancer.
HPV virus is one of the most common cause of gynaecological cancers such as cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer. These cancers can be diagnosed through pap and HPV tests. The treatments of these cancers include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, among other treatment options.
Gynaecologial cancers can be prevented through getting HPV vaccine, practicing safe sex and getting regular screening.
Symptoms of Gall Bladder and Bile Duct Cancer
Some of the symptoms for these cancers are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding,
- Unusual vaginal discharge,
- Pelvic pain,
- Painful lump or pressure in the abdomen,
- Unintentional weight loss,
- Frequent urination,
- Shortness of breath due to fluid build-up in the lungs,
- Discomfort in the abdomen, and
- Pain during urination and sex.
Causes of Gynaecological Cancers
The major cause of most gynaecological cancers is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is spread through unprotected sex with a person who is infected with the virus.
Gynaecological cancers occur due to abnormal gene function which can be caused by:
- Eating a diet that is high in fat,
- Environmental factors such as exposure to toxins and radiation
- Being obese,
- Other diseases such as HIV that weaken the body’s immune system,
- Having a close family member who has had gynaecologic cancer,
- Having other health conditions such as diabetes,
- Having had a previous history with breast or gynaecological cancer,
- Having prior radiation in the pelvic area,
- Older age
Diagnosis of Gynaecological Cancers
- Physical examination: This is done during the initial consultation to check for symptoms of these cancers such as the presence of a lump after which the doctor or specialist will have more tests done. These may include:
- Pap smear test: This is used to check for the presence of cancer cells in a sample of cells taken from the cervix.
- Imaging tests: Used to give detailed images of the inside of the abdominal area which can help in identifying any abnormalities that may be present such as a lump in the cervix or in any of the other organs in the female reproductive system such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. These tests can be done using x-ray, computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI) scan.
- Biopsy: It can be done by taking sample of tissue from the tumour or an entire tumour and viewing it under a microscope for any cancer cells.
- Laparoscopy: Using a laparoscope which is a thin flexible tube like device fitted with a camera and light inserted into the abdomen through a small incision to view the lower abdomen and check for any abnormalities.
Early diagnosis of gynaecological cancers plays a huge role in early detection of these cancers therefore, making them their treatment more effective. Some of the treatment options for this cancer are:
- Surgery: This procedure is done to remove cancer tumour, and in some cases, the entire organ can be removed when the cancer is wide spread.
- Chemotherapy: Using anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.
- Brachytherapy: This is a type of radiation that uses radioactive material implanted into the body which allows a doctor to deliver high doses of radiation to the affected area of the body.
- Hormone therapy: Use of drugs to prevent cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Targeted therapy: It involves using drugs to target and destroy specific cancer cells without damaging normal cells in the body.
Prevention of Gynaecological Cancers
There is no specific way to prevent gynaecological cancers, but a woman can reduce her risk for these cancers by:
- Getting vaccinated against the HPV virus,
- Practicing safe sex to protect herself from getting diseases such as HIV/AIDs that can lead to a high risk for gynaecologic cancers,
- Knowing your risk for these cancers,
- Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits and one that is high in fibre,
- Watching your weight,
- Remaining physically active by doing regular exercises,
- Not smoking, and
- Managing health conditions like diabetes which also increase gynaecologic cancer risk.