There are many reasons as to why a woman might be prone to developing a gynecologic cancer; however, research does indicate that some classes of genes (oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes) may become damaged (through smoking, aging, environmental influences, or inheritance) and result in the uncontrolled spread and growth of abnormal cells.
This spread of abnormal cells, originates from the female reproductive organs: the cervix, the ovaries, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, the vagina, and the vulva. And although there are five common types of gynecologic cancers that women suffer from: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulva cancer, a sixth and very rare fallopian tube cancer also exists.
1. Cervical Cancer – begins in the lower, narrow end of the uterus which connects to the top end of the vagina. Usually caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), cervical cancer tends to affect women mainly in their 30’s or over. When diagnosed early, cervical cancer is highly treatable, thus resulting in a high survival rate.
2. Ovarian Cancer – begins in the ovaries, which are located each side of the uterus, and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer associated with the female reproductive system. Although, when caught at an early stage, ovarian cancer treatments tend to be quite effective.
3. Uterine Cancer – begins in the uterus, which is the pear-shaped organ found in the woman’s pelvis, and where the baby grows while a woman is pregnant. Although the risk of being diagnosed with uterine cancer grows with age (after the menopause), all women are at risk from it.
4. Vaginal Cancer – begins in the vagina, the hollow, tube-like channel situated at the bottom of the uterus, that runs through to the outside of the body. Although virginal cancer is considered rare in most women, all women are actually at risk from it.
5. Vulva Cancer – begins in the vulva, which is the outer part of the female genital organ (rather like the foreskin of a male penis), and when put together with virginal cancer, accounts for between 6% – 7% of all gynecologic cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S.
There exists a sixth gynecologic cancer, Fallopian Tube Cancer that begins in the fallopian tubes which connect the ovaries to the uterus; although, this type of cancer is so rear, it is hardly ever spoken about.
Each gynecologic cancer has its own unique set of signs and symptoms, together with risk factors (chances of developing the disease) and prevention strategies. Although in general, when common gynecologic cancers are diagnosed at an early stage (because frequent screening is recommended), most can be treated quite effectively.
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