Gynecological cancer can be diagnosed in several ways, which vary depending on the type of cancer.
During your annual exam, your OBGYN will likely conduct a pelvic exam, which can identify signs of vulvar cancer and abnormalities in your reproductive organs. During this appointment, your doctor will also typically conduct a Pap smear, which screens for cervical cancer cells even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
Your doctor may also use other diagnostic tools, such as:
- Biopsy (small samples of possibly cancerous tissue that are examined under a microscope)
- Imaging tests such as ultrasounds, MRIs, x-rays, PET scans, or CT scans (to visualize any tumor growths)
- Blood or urine test
- Hormone analysis
Knowing your specific risk factors and understanding the signs and symptoms of gynecological cancer will help you and your doctor identify and address any potential problems.
Treatment strategies for gynecologic cancer will depend on the specific gynecological cancer and whether or not you plan to have children in the future. For example, the HPV vaccine is a very effective prevention strategy for cervical cancer, while many endometrial cancers can be treated with a surgical procedure.
The stage of the cancer guides your treatment plan. Often, doctors combine two or more treatment approaches to provide a customized treatment plan that targets your specific tumor type and stage.
Surgery is the primary treatment for many types of gynecological cancer. Other treatments include chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Your doctor may also use radiation to treat areas where cancer has spread.
The most common gynecological cancer treatments are:
- Chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing
- Hormone therapy to reduce hormone levels or block the action of hormones in the body
- Radiation therapy to eradicate cancer cells and shrink tumors
- Surgery to remove the tumor or entire organ
- Targeted therapy to destroy cancer by using markers present only in cancer cells
Cancer research is continuously underway. Your doctor may suggest experimental protocols for new treatments. Discuss the goals, benefits, and side effects of each potential treatment.
Dignity Health provides compassionate care and comprehensive treatment for people with gynecological cancer. Find a location near you.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.