Gynecologic Cancer Awareness

Knowledge Is Power: Gynecologic Cancer Symptoms

This short animated video encourages women to learn the symptoms of gynecologic cancers.

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. You can lower your risk for some of these cancers.

“I had fibroids for years, but it was abnormal heavy bleeding that led me to see my doctor,” said Brenda. “I had already gone through menopause, but would occasionally have very, very heavy bleeding. I learned that I had uterine cancer.

“I had surgery to remove the cancer. I didn’t require further treatment. It’s been 10 years and I am cancer-free. I am blessed that I have a supportive network of friends and family that I could rely upon. I often share my story with folks in my community to help raise awareness.

“I encourage women to listen to their bodies. As women, we think we need to do it all. Be sure to find time for you; find space for you; enjoy you! Start with self-care and self-healing. If you aren’t well, you can’t do anything for anyone else.”

What Are Gynecologic Cancers?

Gynecologic cancers are cancers of women’s reproductive organs. The five main types are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancers?

If you have vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, especially if you have already gone through menopause, 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. Symptoms are not the same for everyone, and each type of gynecologic cancer has its own symptoms.

How Can Gynecologic Cancers Be Prevented?

HPV Vaccine

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 to 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 Screening Tests

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that has recommended screening tests. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

Learn more about the Pap and HPV tests.

Photo of family members having dinner together

A family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, and colorectal cancers can increase a woman’s risk for developing these cancers. Family History and Cancer explains how to collect your family health history and what to do if cancer runs in your family.

Hereditary Ovarian Cancer

Several hereditary conditions can raise your chance of getting cancer. Two of the most common are hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome and Lynch syndrome.

  • Women with HBOC syndrome have an increased risk for ovarian, breast, and several other cancers.
  • Women with Lynch syndrome are at increased risk for ovarian, uterine, and colorectal cancers.

If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA genes, you may have a higher ovarian cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about genetic counseling, ways to reduce your risk, and what tests you may need to monitor your health. Learn more about family history and cancer.

CDC’s Inside Knowledge Campaign

CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign raises awareness about the five main types of gynecologic cancer. Inside Knowledge provides resources for patients and health professionals, including print materials (fact sheets, brochures, and posters) and television and radio public service announcements.

Page last reviewed: September 13, 2018