Facts Every Woman Should Know About Gynaecological Cancer

Here in Australia, one in 22 women will develop a gynaecological cancer at one point in her lifetime.

That equates to someone’s Mother, Daughter, Sister, Grandmother, Aunt or Niece being diagnosed every two hours, somewhere in Australia!

It could include any of the following gynaecological cancers:

Image source: Foundation For Women’s Cancer: http://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org

Ovarian Cancer : Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the ovary, fallopian tube or peritoneum grow in an uncontrolled way. The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system, located on each side of the uterus. They produce eggs and hormones. Ovarian cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body to form secondary cancers, in a process called metastasis.

Uterine/Endometrial Cancer: This is the most common type of gynaecological cancer diagnosed in Australian women. Endometrial cancer originates in the lining of the uterus (often called the endometrium). Women need to take note of early warning symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding from the uterus or vaginal bleeding outside of their cycle or after intercourse. The majority of uterine cancers can be diagnosed at an early stage.

Cervical Cancer: Cervical cancer develops through pre-cancerous stages (cervical dysplasia, CIN) over many years. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system, which also includes the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

Regular Cervical Screening tests have reduced the incidence of cervical cancer dramatically in countries of the developed world.

START BY HAVING REGULAR PAP SMEARS LADIES AND BE VIGILANT, GET TO KNOW YOUR OWN BODY!!!

Vulval Caner: Vulval cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the tissues of the vulva grow in an uncontrolled way. About 300 Australian women are diagnosed with vulval cancer each year. It most commonly affects women who have gone through menopause, however vulval cancer can also occur in younger women.

Cancer of the vulva, like other cancers, is not infectious and cannot be passed on to other people. An inherited faulty gene does not cause it, and so other members of your family are not likely to be at risk of developing it.

Vaginal Cancer: Vaginal cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the tissues of the vagina grow in an uncontrolled way. Vaginal cancer is rare. We see less than 20 patients with vaginal cancer every year in Australia. Due to its rareness. Knowledge about risk factors is sparse.

What may increase your chance of getting gynaecological cancer?

According to Cancer Australia; “While the causes of many gynaecological cancers are not fully understood, there are a number of factors associated with the risk of developing one or more types of gynaecological cancer”.  These risk factors include:

  • increasing age
  • having a strong family history
  • history of breast cancer
  • identified gene mutations
  • reproductive history such as child-bearing
  • exposure to hormones produced by the body or medication
  • exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb
  • viral infections such as human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • lifestyle factors such as smoking and those leading to excess body weight

Gynaecological Cancer … some hard truths and some farfetched myths!

There are some common “myths” that are often misconstrued as “facts” when it comes to gynaecological cancer.

Have a look below and get up to speed with the truth surrounding gynaecological cancer!

 Help spread the truth! 

Next time you are with your Girlfriends, Sisters, Mothers, Aunts and Family Members – separate the fact from the fiction!

(The following material has been sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: https://gynaecological-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics)

Women who’ve had a hysterectomy can STILL get gynaecological cancer?

It’s true. Not all patients choose to have their ovaries and/or fallopian tubes removed when undergoing hysterectomies. In fact, there have even been rare cases where women with no ovaries were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 
Vaginal or vulval cancer is also not avoided through having a hysterectomy.

The PAP Smear doesn’t detect all types of cancer?

Correct! The PAP Smear ONLY detects cervical cancer cells. We are constantly surprised by the number of women who believe the PAP Smear is a ‘one stop shop’ that will detect all kinds of gynaecological cancers. Our advice is, do not think you are ‘safe’ from gynaecological cancer just because you had a clear PAP Smear. Be constantly vigilant and if you notice any unusual changes in your body, seek medical advice promptly.

Do more women die from ovarian cancer than breast cancer?

No. However, women diagnosed with breast cancer have an average 90% five year survival rate, compared with just 43% five year survival rate for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

If I lead a healthy lifestyle, could I still get cancer?

Yes. While we do know that obesity and adverse lifestyle factors such as smoking are directly linked to gynaecological cancers like endometrial cancer, there is no proven ‘diet’ that prevents cancer. A healthy diet lowers your risk of being diagnosed, but we don’t know exactly which foods may fight or prevent cancer.  Our advice is to maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle and avoid risk factors like obesity and smoking that are known to be linked with gynaecological cancer.

I have no family history of cancer, so I probably won’t get it

Not true. In fact, most women diagnosed with gynaecological cancer have no family history (6 out of 7 for ovarian cancer). Again, the best thing you can do is to closely monitor your body for changes. Remember that for ovarian cancer, there often aren’t any early warning signs. Survival rates for gynaecological cancer are much higher when women seek medical attention as early as possible.

4 thoughts on “Facts Every Woman Should Know About Gynaecological Cancer”

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  4. As we honor Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to be cognizant of the realities of these deadly diseases. All women with reproductive organs are susceptible to developing one of the seven gynecologic cancers, with the exception of women who have received a full hysterectomy and are at a lower risk. Know your body, know the facts, know your risk .

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