10 questions about gynecologic cancers

Each year, approximately 100,000 women are diagnosed with some form of gynecologic cancer: cervical, ovarian, fallopian tube, uterine (also called endometrial cancer), vulvar or vaginal. We spoke with Shannon Westin, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and co-leader of MD Anderson’s Ovarian Cancer Moonshot™, to learn more about these diseases. Here’s what she wants every woman to know. What are the most common types of gynecologic cancers? The most prevalent is uterine cancer. Since 2007, there have been about 60,000 new diagnoses each year. The second is ovarian cancer, with about 20,000 diagnoses per year. The third is cervical cancer, with about 10,000 diagnoses per year. Vulvar and vaginal cancers are the rarest, with about 10,000 diagnoses a year between them. The vast majority of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers are HPV-related. What are some symptoms women should watch for? Ovarian cancer has been called the silent killer because its symptoms are so vague. But there are four main ones to look for: bloating, pelvic/abdominal pain, frequent urination and difficulty eating/feeling full. All of those are very easy to blow off as being something else, so if you experience them daily and they persist for more than a few weeks, see a doctor. For uterine cancer and cervical cancers, post-menopausal bleeding or irregular bleeding are the most common symptoms among women who are still menstruating. For vaginal and vulvar cancers, patients may experience abnormal bleeding or note an abnormal lump or bump. Non-healing ulcers or pain during intercourse can be seen with these tumors as well. Are there any diagnostic tests available? For cervical cancer, there’s the...