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Gynecologic Cancer Awareness

Photo: Three women

Gynecologic cancers are cancers that start in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five main types are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancer.

Every year, more than 80,000 women in the United States are told they have a gynecologic cancer, and more than 25,000 women die from a gynecologic cancer. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age.

There is no way to know which women will get a gynecologic cancer. That’s why it is important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you, so you can recognize the warning signs. If you have vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, see a doctor right away. If you notice any other unexplained signs or symptoms that last for two weeks or longer, talk to your doctor.

Prevention and Screening

Diagram of the female genital tract depicting fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva.

Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. A vaccine protects against the HPV types that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. While it is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, the vaccine can be given to girls beginning at age 9 and to girls and women who are 13–26 years old who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. (The HPV vaccine also is recommended for boys and young men.)

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that has a recommended screening test. The Pap test screens for cervical cancer and can find it early, when treatment works best. The Pap test also helps prevent cervical cancer by finding precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. Women should start getting the Pap test at age 21.

The Pap test only checks for cervical cancer. It does not check for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers.

The HPV test looks for HPV infection. It may be used to screen women aged 30 years and older, or for women of any age who have unclear Pap test results. Learn more about the Pap and HPV tests.

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Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer

CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign raises awareness about the five main types of gynecologic cancer: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar.

Inside Knowledge resources are available in English and Spanish and include—

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