Women of all ages are at some risk of developing ovarian, cervical, or uterine cancer.
Leading medical organizations report that most women have symptoms at an early stage of disease when cancers are most survivable. Early detection saves lives!
There is no specific test to diagnose ovarian cancer. The PapTest does not detect ovarian cancer. Women with a personal or family history of some cancers are at a higher risk.
Specifically, these factors increase your risks:
- Two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer
- Family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer
- Personal history of breast, endometrial or colon cancer
Know the symptoms for ovarian cancer:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Other chronic symptoms can include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities.
Seek medical care:
If one or more of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks and represent a change from normal for your body, you should see a doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Ask your doctor for the following clinically recommended series of tests:
- Pelvic/rectal exam,
- CA125 blood test, and
- Transvaginal sonogram or other imaging.
Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.
If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer:
Should testing reveal an abnormality in your ovaries, consult a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist in female reproductive cancers. Medical research has shown that treatment by a gynecologic oncologist is critical to increasing your chances of survival. For referral to a gynecologic oncologist in your area, consult the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists’ website at www.wcn.org/findadoctor.
Cervical cancer deaths are avoidable, yet Washington, DC ranks first in the nation for cervical cancer deaths! In contrast, Maryland ranks 27th, and Virginia is 31st.
Know the symptoms for cervical cancer:
Almost all women with cervical cancer are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the main cause of this cancer. Often, cervical cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, but an annual PapTest can detect this form of cancer.
More advanced stages of cervical cancer can have the following symptoms:
- Abnormal bleeding, spotting, or discharge from the vagina
- Bleeding after having intercourse
- Pain when having intercourse
Seek medical care:
Pap Test: Routine, regular Pap Tests for women of all ages can find abnormal cells before they become cancer. Doctors recommend that women start having annual Pap Tests starting at age 21 (or within 3 years of sexual activity if younger) and continue to get Pap Tests throughout their lives.
HPV Test: A test for HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is available and can be used to evaluate your risk. Consult with a gynecologist.
Cervical cancer can be prevented! In addition to the above tests, doctors urge:
- Early vaccination with Gardasil®, which can protect against certain types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. This vaccine is generally given to girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26 and is best given before the first sexual encounter. Ask a doctor for more information.
- Condoms can help prevent transmission of HPV, but are not 100% effective.
Endometrial or Uterine Cancer
Washington, DC leads the nation in the death rate from uterine cancer. Maryland ranks 19th and Virginia is 24th.
Know the symptoms for endometrial or uterine cancer!
The most common warning signs of endometrial/uterine cancer are:
- Vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding from the vagina (that is, irregular bleeding between menstrual periods or any vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause)
- Pain during urination or intercourse
- Two or more weeks of persistent pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region.
Seek medical care:
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult with a doctor, preferably a gynecologist or a gynecologic oncologist, who may recommend an endometrial biopsy and/or an ultrasound study.
There are no specific tests available to screen for endometrial or uterine cancer. An annual vaginal-rectal pelvic examination is recommended to check for abnormalities.