Gynecologic Cancer Awareness

Not Just Words

This video discusses the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancer.

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers. Learn how to lower your risk.

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?

These could be symptoms of a gynecologic cancer—

  • Pelvic pain or pressure that doesn’t go away, and you don’t know why.
  • Feeling too full, too fast, even when you eat just a little.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, like having longer or heavier periods than what’s normal for you, or bleeding after you’ve gone through menopause.

If you notice anything unusual and it goes on for two weeks or longer, see a doctor. It may be nothing, but find out for sure.

Eileen’s Story

“I began having heavy bleeding and I went to a nearby medical clinic. The doctors there found that I had something suspicious on my uterus. They referred me to a gynecologist who did a biopsy, which revealed I had cancer,” says Eileen.

“The doctors say they are not sure which came first, the uterine cancer or the cervical cancer. I had radiation and chemotherapy, a total hysterectomy, and my ovaries were removed. I’m now cancer-free.

“I hope that other women will not be in denial about their risk for cancer. I had a family history of cervical and uterine cancers, but I didn’t get checked until I had symptoms. So if you have a family history, tell your doctor and ask if you should have special tests to find anything early.”

Which Gynecologic Cancers Can Be Prevented?

You can lower your risk for some gynecologic cancers with a vaccine and screening tests.

HPV Vaccine

Some gynecologic cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus.

The HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Learn more about the HPV vaccine.

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.

Hereditary Ovarian Cancer

Several hereditary conditions can raise your chance of getting cancer. Two of the most common are hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may have a higher ovarian cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.

Learn more about family health history and cancer.

Page last reviewed: September 11, 2019