Gynaecological cancers are cancers of the female reproductive system. These include ovarian and fallopian tube cancers, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) and cancer of the vulva and vagina.
Gynaecological cancers are common in our community and are the fourth most common cancer for women.
The only screening test is for cervical cancer – the Pap smear. It does not test for any other cancer. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer.
In Australia on average 13 women are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer every day and 4 will die.
Why is gynae cancer such a problem?
- For ovarian it’s the vague and non-specific symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage and survival is poor.
- For endometrial, the incidence has risen 22% in the last 20 years and continues to rise, in part due to the obesity epidemic.
- For cervical, there is a screening test (and a vaccine) but many women in indigenous and migrant populations do not access these readily. The HPV vaccine will make eventually make a difference but only after a minimum of 10 years.
There are simple measures you can take to help identify symptoms of gynaecological cancer:
- Know your family health history and be aware of gynaecological cancer symptoms
- Know and listen to your body
- Take control of your health, talk to your GP if you notice any irregular body changes.
Symptoms that may be caused by gynaecological cancers include:
- abnormal or persistent vaginal bleeding
- unusual vaginal discharge
- pain, pressure or discomfort in the abdomen
- swelling of the abdomen
- change in bowel or bladder habits
- pain during intercourse
- vaginal itching, burning or soreness
- lumps, sores or wart-like growths.
The symptoms of gynaecological cancers depend on where the tumour is situated, the size of the tumour and how quickly it is growing. Not all symptoms will mean you have gynaecological cancer but if they persist you should see your doctor and be thoroughly checked.
Survival from ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer has improved over the last 25 years
|5-Year relative survival rates||1982-1987||2006-2010|
*The reasons for the lower survival outcomes for ovarian cancer include the relatively high proportion of diagnoses at an advanced stage of the cancer. This is attributed to the non-specific nature of the symptoms of this cancer and the lack of effective tests available for ovarian cancer screening.
Want to know more about gynaecological cancers? Go to the Cancer Australia website: http://canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/gynaecological-cancers
Are you interested in learning more about research? www.anzgog.org.au/