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Gynaecological cancers: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About gynaecological cancers

Gynaecological cancers refer to malignant conditions of different organs of the female reproductive system which include uterus (womb), fallopian tube, ovary, cervix (neck of womb), vulva and vagina. Cancer of the cervix, uterus and the ovary are most commonly encountered gynaecological cancers.

Gynaecological cancers: Incidence, age and sex

Gynaecological cancers are commonly encountered cancers in women. The age of cancer presentation may depend upon the type of gynaecological cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the most common gynaecological malignancies documented in women worldwide. The incidence of vulval and uterine cancer is on the rise, in present times.

Signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers: Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers, usually vary with the type of cancer. However, common features include abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge, which may be accompanied with lower abdominal pain and discomfort. Sometimes, urinary symptoms like burning micturition or painful voiding may also be complained of.

Detailed history and gynaecological examination may help in detecting cancer. Pap smear wherein the cervical swab is examined under a microscope, may reveal abnormal or cancerous cells in cervical cancer.

Causes and prevention of gynaecological cancers

The causes of gynaecological cancers differ according to the type of cancer. For example, ovarian cancer is usually genetic in origin. Cancer of the cervix may be caused by human papilloma virus which causes warty lesions in cervix. Moreover, risk factors like smoking, taking birth control pills, history of several pregnancies or early age of sexual intercourse may contribute to cervical cancer. Cancer of uterus also called endometrial cancer may be caused due to certain predisposing factors like hormone replacement therapy, polycystic ovarian disease and obesity. The exact cause of cancer of the vulva is not clear. Hormone replacement therapy may be a potential risk factor in causing vulval cancers.

Gynaecological cancers: Complications

Gynaecological cancers in later stages may spread to urinary bladder and adjoining lymph nodes. Moreover, relapses may also be encountered after treatment of cancer with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Gynaecological cancers: Treatment

The treatment modalities of gynaecological cancers include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Surgical intervention wherein cervix is removed along with uterus is the treatment of choice in cervical cancer. This may be coupled with radiation or chemotherapy as and when needed. Surgical removal of uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, is the choice of treatment in women with cancer of uterus. This is also coupled with radiotherapy and chemotherapy in cases where pelvic lymph nodes are involved. The management of ovarian cancer includes surgical intervention and chemotherapy. Alternatively, surgical intervention is enough to manage vulval cancers. The prognosis of any gynaecological cancers depends upon the stage of cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer has a good outcome.