How does cancer develop?
Normal cells in the body will be repaired or destroyed if they become damaged. Cancer occurs when these cells grow out of control, and cause tumors or growths to form within various parts of the body. There are many risk factors associated with each individual type of cancer; some types are hereditary while others can be caused by a virus, radiation, or a combination of various causes.
Cervical cancer occurs when there is a change in the cells that cover the cervix, causing them to divide more rapidly than normal. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papilloma virus, or HPV. It can often take years for this type of cancer to develop, but early changes can often be detected through yearly Pap screenings.
Ovarian cancer can affect one or both ovaries and is categorized into three types, based on which cells are affected: epithelial, germ, and stromal. However, 85-90% of all ovarian cancer cases are attributed to the epithelial cell category. Women at higher risk for ovarian cancer are normally older than 55, have a family history of female cancer, have not had children, or have experienced infertility or endometriosis. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer may include abdominal bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, and feeling full quickly or having difficulty eating.
Cancer of the Uterus
There are different types of uterine cancer, but the most common type is endometrial cancer, which is also the most common type of gynecological cancer in the US. The majority of occurrences happen in women who are around the age of 60. Risk factors can include, but are not limited to: smoking cigarettes, history of cancer (ovary and colon), irregular periods, infertility, obesity, late menopause, and family history of endometrial cancer. Symptoms associated with this type of cancer are abnormal bleeding/spotting, abnormal discharge, and spotting or bleeding after menopause.
Clinical breast exams and mammography screenings may be recommended by your physician, depending on age and symptoms. Breast cancer can sometimes be indicated by redness, soreness, unexplained rashes, swelling, or changes to the position of nipples, including the sudden inversion of nipples.
To catch cancer early, be vigilant. The majority of gynecological cancers can cause abnormal uterine bleedings as a symptom. If your cycle suddenly changes or you find yourself spotting or bleeding between periods, make an appointment for a pelvic exam to find out if it’s a symptom of cancer or another, less acute cause. Other symptoms common to all types of gynecological cancers are pelvic and back pain, especially if these don’t usually occur as part of your menstrual cycle or continue even when you aren’t having your period. Because there are a variety of symptoms that may indicate cancer, many of which overlap with other conditions, be sure to note any changes to your health, menstrual cycle, skin, appetite, breasts, or pelvic area to your doctor.
By familiarizing yourself with your anatomy, going to annual Well Woman appointments, educating yourself on your risk factors and observing any changes that might occur, you will have a better chance of catching a form of female cancer early. Our goal at Women’s Institute for Specialized Health, PLLC is to help you stay healthy, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about a change in your body, menstrual cycle, or feelings of health.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of the doctor-patient relationship and any email is not appropriate for emergency care. To schedule an appointment, please call your doctor's primary office, listed on our Locations page. In case of emergency, we are available 24 hours a day.