What Are Gynecologic Cancers?
Gynecologic cancers are cancers that originate in the female reproductive system. The uterus is the hollow, hormone-responsive organ in which fetal development occurs during pregnancy. The uterus is made up of two main layers, the endometrium and the myometrium. The endometrium is the innermost lining of the uterus. Endometrial cancers, also known as endometrial carcinomas, result when the cells of the endometrium multiply without regulation. The myometrium is the muscular layer of the uterus and may also be involved by cancer. Uterine sarcomas begin in either this layer of muscle or in the connective tissue that supports the uterus. Lastly, gynecologic cancers also include cervical, fallopian tube, ovarian, and vaginal malignancies.
What Causes Gynecologic Cancers?
Gynecologic cancers develop as a result of changes to the genetic material within the cells that make up the female reproductive system. These changes result in the pattern of cell growth and division characteristic of cancer. Although increased likelihood of developing a gynecologic cancer is associated with the following factors, according to the American Cancer Society, in most cases, physicians and scientists are still trying to determine what causes cancer to develop:
- Family history of certain cancers
- Personal history of certain cancers
- Personal history of endometrial hyperplasia
- Radiation therapy directed at the pelvis
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol while in mother’s womb
- Infection with human papillomavirus
- Use of certain intrauterine devices
- Use of certain birth control pills
- Estrogen supplementation
- Genetic mutations
- Prior treatment with tamoxifen
How Are Gynecologic Cancers Detected?
Our specialists collect information regarding medical history, surgical history, social history, and family history; conduct laboratory testing; and review radiological studies to approach patient care in the most comprehensive and personalized manner.
If cancer is suspected, a doctor will likely order imaging to help arrive at a diagnosis. Imaging might include a CT scan, PET scan, PET-CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of CT scan with those of a PET scan. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic fields to generate a detailed representation of the body. Lastly, an ultrasound sends sound waves through the body to generate images of the body’s organs and tissues.
If upon review of your results your doctor notices a mass suspicious for cancer, he or she will likely order a biopsy in order to make a diagnosis and plan treatment, if necessary.
As a final note, although Pap testing can sometimes find early endometrial cancers, it is generally used to screen for cervical cancers and is not as useful for uterine cancers.
Staging of Gynecologic Cancers
“Staging” occurs when a physician uses test and scan results to determine which parts of the body are involved by cancer. Staging is important because different stages of gynecologic cancer are better addressed with treatments which may differ in amount, combination, or type.
Signs and Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancers
The following may be indicative of a gynecologic cancer but may also be indicative of other illnesses:
It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.
How Is Gynecologic Cancer Treated?
Treatment of cancer, depending on the stage and type, may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a cancer treatment plan include
You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it is very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It is very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.
NYCBS Clinical Trials in Gynecologic Cancer
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. Sometimes they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, contact New York Cancer and Blood Specialist today at (855) 528-7322 to learn more.