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Gynecological Cancer


Meet our Cancer Specialists:  John Farley, MD, COL (ret), FACOG, FACS  |  Debra Wong, MD

The services provided in the Gynecologic Oncology Program include the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and high risk conditions of the vulva; vagina; cervix; uterus; and ovaries, fallopian tubes and peritoneum, along with rare conditions such as uterine sarcoma and gestational trophoblastic disease. Our multidisciplinary treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, genetic counseling, nutrition, and radiation as well as symptom management and survivor services. 

For more information about scheduling an appointment at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s, please call 888.653.9949.

Understanding more about gynecologic cancers can help you better understand the treatment that may be selected for you or your loved one, based on the type of malignancy, genetic profile, patient lifestyle, and individual resources.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer, in almost all cases, is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines that protect against infection with these types of HPV can greatly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Having a Pap test to check for abnormal cells in the cervix or a test to check for HPV can find cells that may become abnormal and lead to cervical cancer. These cells can be treated before cancer forms.

Cervical cancer can usually be cured if it has been found and treated in the early stages. Our highly trained physicians have many minimally invasive procedures for the examination and removal of this malignancy.

For more information specifically about cervical cancer, visit this page put together by the National Cancer Institute (NCI): cancer.gov/types/cervical.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancertypically starts in the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus). This is generally called endometrial cancer. Obesity, certain inherited conditions, and taking estrogen alone without progesterone can increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

Our surgeons use cutting-edge methods, the da Vinci robot, and complex/radical gynecologic pelvic surgeries to ensure the best possible outcome for patients. Our oncologists and nursing staff work in coordination with the patients, their physicians, and the surgical team to provide a comprehensive and comfortable environment for patients as, well as their families.

For more information specifically about uterine cancer, visit this page put together by the NCI: cancer.gov/types/uterine.

Ovarian, Fallopian Tube and Peritoneal Cancers

Ovarian, fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers are the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. These cancers are often found at advanced stages, partly because they may not cause early signs or symptoms and there are no good screening tests for them.

For more information specifically about ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer, visit this page put together by the NCI: http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian.

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Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer usually forms slowly over a number of years, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about half of all vulvar cancers. Vaccines that protect against infection with these types of HPV may reduce the risk of vulvar cancer.

The vulva is the external part of the female genitals, including the clitoris, the vaginal lips, the opening to the vagina, and the surrounding skin and tissue. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is important to get treatment.

For more information specifically about vulvar cancer, visit this page put together by the NCI: cancer.gov/types/vulvar.

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Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal canceroccurs in the birth canal that leads from the cervix (the opening of the uterus) to the outside of the body. The most common type of vaginal cancer, called squamous cell carcinoma, begins in the thin, flat cells that line the vagina. Another type of vaginal cancer, known as adenocarcinoma, begins in cells that make mucus.

Infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) causes most vaginal cancer. Vaccines that protect against infection with these types of HPV may reduce the risk of vaginal cancer.

Vaginal cancer often does not cause early signs or symptoms. It may be found during a routine pelvic exam.

For more information specifically about vaginal cancer, visit this page put together by the NCI: cancer.gov/types/vaginal.

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Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

Gestational trophoblastic disease(GTD) is a term for rare tumors that form in the tissue that surrounds an egg after it is fertilized. This tissue is made of trophoblast cells, which connect the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus and form part of the placenta. In GTD, a tumor forms instead of a healthy fetus.

The two main types of GTD are hydatidiform moles and gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. Hydatidiform moles are also called molar pregnancies and are more common. Most hydatidiform moles are benign (not cancer), but they sometimes become cancer. Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia is almost always malignant (cancer).

For more information about GTD, visit this page put together by the NCI: cancer.gov/types/gestational-trophoblastic.

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Treatment you may receive

There are multiple ways to treat gynecologic malignancies.  A few may include: surgery, radiation, and/or medications. Your Gynecologic Oncologist at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s will help you understand which treatment is most appropriate for you.

Questions to ask your oncologist

  • What is my diagnosis and prognosis?
  • What is your experience in treating the cancer I have?
  • How will you determine the best treatment for me?
  • How long does each treatment option typically last, both individually and as a series of treatments?
  • How will you know if the treatment is making progress?

For more information about various types of cancer, cancer staging and treatment options, click on this link from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN): NCCN Guidelines for Patients® - nccn.org/patients/default.aspx.

For more information about scheduling an appointment at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s, please call 888.653.9949.

Decreasing risk for gynecologic cancers

You can minimize your risk of developing gynecologic cancers or discovering it at a later stage through these steps:

  • HPV vaccine. Human papillomavirus (HPV)  a very common sexually transmitted infection. Vaccines protect against the HPV types that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys.
  • Screening tests. These include the Pap test for cervical cancer and the HPV test. Talk to your health professional about how often you should have these tests. According to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers and more than 50 percent of vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.
  • Identifying genetic mutations in your family such as BRCA 1/2 or Lynch Syndrome genes and undergoing appropriate screening and even risk reducing (prophylactic) surgery
  • Eat Well. A diet rich with antioxidants may decrease your chance for developing certain cancers.
  • Do not smoke or stop smoking.
  • Try to get 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 days per week.
  • Try to get between 7-8 hours of sleep.