Gynecologic cancer includes several kinds of cancer.

Gynecologic cancer includes:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

You also may be interested in information about ovarian cancer.

You will benefit from learning more about the symptoms and treatments of gynecologic cancers.

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or an unusual discharge could be a sign of gynecologic cancer.

Other symptoms include a rash or a burning sensation and severe itching around the opening of the vagina.

If you have any of these symptoms, that doesn’t mean you have cancer. All of them could be signs of an infection in your reproductive organs or gynecologic tract. But you should talk to your doctor about these symptoms as soon as you can. 

While abnormal or unusual bleeding is a symptom of many gynecologic cancers, other symptoms may be less obvious and may only be noticeable in later stages. They include:

  • Abdominal or back pain
  • A lump or mass
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bathroom habits or painful urination
  • Changes in the color or skin of the vulva (opening of the vagina)
  • Itching or burning of the vulva
  • Pelvic pain or pressure

Some gynecologic cancers are difficult to detect in their early stages, so even if you don’t notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about regular cancer screenings.

Multiple HPV infections put you at higher risk for cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.

HPV is the human papillomavirus. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV usually goes away on its own, but of the more than 100 types of HPV, some can cause cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer.

When discussing gynecological cancer with your doctor, be sure to mention whether you have had an HPV infection.  

Most cervical cancers are preventable.

Most cervical cancers are caused by an HPV infection and occur in women over age 40. You can prevent cervical cancer by getting an annual pelvic exam and pap smear.

Doctors recommend that you get regular pap smears beginning at age 21. If you have an abnormal pap smear, you should get further testing.

You also should get vaccinated. The vaccine protects against certain types of HPV that cause 90 percent of all cervical cancers. The vaccine works best when given at age 11 or 12. All boys and girls should get the HPV vaccine.

Cervical Cancer Treatment Options

  • Chemotherapy
  • Laser therapy: high-intensity light to destroy cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
    • Cryosurgery: liquid nitrogen or a cold probe freezes and kills cancer cells
    • Hysterectomy: removal of the uterus, including the cervix
Uterine cancer includes endometrial cancer and is the most common gynecologic cancer.

Uterine cancer is highly curable when detected early.

Symptoms of uterine cancer can include:

  • Abnormal bleeding, especially after menopause
  • Ongoing pelvic pain or pressure
  • Pain during sex

Uterine cancer is actually several types of cancer that affect the uterus, or womb, which is where babies develop.

The uterus is made up of different types of tissue, and each type can have different kinds of uterine cancer. The most common is endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the uterine lining.

The majority of uterine cancers occur after menopause. You are at higher risk of developing uterine cancer if you are obese or if you had long-term use of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy.

Uterine Cancer Treatment Options

At Holden, our board-certified gynecologic oncologists offer many treatment options for uterine cancer, including some that can help preserve your fertility and allow you to become pregnant if you are of child-bearing age. These options include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery:
    • Hysterectomy: removal of the uterus, the most common surgery
    • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: removal of uterus and the fallopian tubes and ovaries
    • Pelvic lymph node dissection: removal of some lymph nodes from the pelvis 
Vaginal and vulvar cancer are highly treatable when found early.

The vagina is the part of the female gynecologic tract that connects to the cervix. The outer opening of the vagina is called the vulva.

Regular annual exams typically find vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer in their early stages. Both are relatively rare cancers and can develop over a period of years. Persistent HPV infections can increase your risk of developing these cancers.

Symptoms for These Cancers

Symptoms of vaginal cancer can include:

  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Changes in urination (frequency or urgency)
  • Constipation.

Symptoms of vulvar cancer can include:

  • Itching or burning around the vulva 
  • Sores, warts, or a rash
  • Changes in the vulva’s skin color

Vulvar cancer is the only cancer of the female reproductive tract that doesn’t cause abnormal discharge or vaginal bleeding.

Treatments for These Cancers

The most common treatment for vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer is surgery. Types of surgery include:

  • Local excision: removal of cancerous tissue and a small margin of normal tissue surrounding it
  • Laser surgery
  • LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision): a procedure that uses a small electrical wire loop to remove abnormal cells
  • Mohs surgery: a procedure that removes thin layers of cancerous tissue while sparing normal tissue
  • Vaginectomy: removal of all or part of the vagina
  • Vulvectomy: removal of all or part of the vulva

 

Holden has Iowa’s largest team of board-certified oncologists, ready to treat every type of gynecologic cancer.

With a team of five board-certified gynecologic oncologists, Holden offers:

  • Shorter wait times
  • More experience, knowledge, and input from more specialists
  • A care plan personalized for you by a team of experts in surgery, radiology, pathology, and genetic counseling

Holden also offers clinical trials of the latest therapies available for gynecologic cancers. These include drugs not yet on the market and other promising new treatments.

Our surgeons are experts in the latest minimally invasive techniques, including Mohs and robot-assisted procedures, which can mean smaller incisions, faster recovery, and less pain.

Cancer Care Clinics

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Clinical Cancer Center

21602 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
Elevator M, Level 1
Phone: 1-319-356-4200

Davenport - Dexter Court

3385 Dexter Court
Building 3, Suite 110
Davenport, IA 52807

Women's Health – Davenport, Dexter Court

Phone: 1-563-355-2244