Almost all cervical cancers and certain cancers of the vagina and vulva are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, for which there is a vaccination.

Medical research states that abnormal function of certain genes such as the oncogenes and tumour suppressing genes, triggered by smoking or other environmental factors can lead to cancer. However, it is not always possible to single out the exact cause of a person developing cancer. Nevertheless, there are symptoms that you can watch out for, screening tests to do and certain precautions to take.


Types of Gynaecologic Cancers


As the name suggests, Gynaecologic Cancers are the growth of cancerous cells in any part of the female reproductive system such as the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva. Almost all cervical cancers and certain cancers of the vagina and vulva are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, for which there is a vaccination. For other types of Gynaecologic Cancer, chances of successful treatment are higher when detected earlier, which calls for routine screening where applicable.


Risk Factors for Gynaecologic Cancers


Anyone with female reproductive organs can develop gynaecologic cancer. However, there are certain factors that increase your risk:


  • Age – While cancer can develop at any age, the risk for most gynaecologic cancers increases with age. Women older than 40 years of age need to be more aware of their bodies and get screened for cancer diligently.
  • HPV exposure – Most cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina are caused by HPV which is a common sexually transmitted infection. Getting vaccinated and practising safe sex is the best way to prevent cancers caused by HPV.
  • Genetics – A woman whose mother, sister or daughter has been diagnosed with gynaecologic cancer in the fallopian tube or ovaries, is at higher risk for developing cancer. Genetic testing for specific gene mutations can help identify if the individual is at a risk for cancer.
  • Radiation Exposure – Women who have undergone radiation therapy in the pelvic reason are also at a higher risk. It is important to be aware of this risk and discuss your options with the doctor before undergoing radiotherapy.
  • Smoking – Women with a long history of smoking are at higher risk for certain gynaecologic cancers.

Preventing Gynaecologic Cancers


There is no specific cause for cancer, which means one must be more aware of their body and alert to changes.

  • If you have a family history of cancer, you need to check with your doctor about the possibility of you developing it too since some gene abnormalities run in families.
  • If you have a personal history of cancer, even if you were treated and completely cured, you still need to make regular visits to the oncologist to ensure cancer does not recur.
  • Cancers caused by HPV are vaccine preventable. Parents of young children must ensure that their children get all required doses within the right age for the best protection. Women over the age of 21 can do a pap test to check for cervical cancer.
  • Certain age-related cancers call for routine screening tests to detect the disease in its very nascent stage. When caught at this stage, cancer can be treated successfully.

Symptoms of Gynaecologic Cancer


Cancer in any part of the female reproductive system comes under the category of Gynaecologic cancer. Symptoms can be varied depending on the type and extent of cancer.


  • Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

    Common symptoms include:

    • – Bloating
    • – Pelvic / Abdominal Pain
    • – Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
    • – Increased Frequency of Urination
    • – Pain during intercourse

    Less common symptoms include:

    • – Indigestion
    • – Back pain
    • – Fatigue
    • – Menstrual Irregularities
    • – Constipation
  • Cervical Cancer Symptoms:

    Early Symptoms include:

    • – Watery or bloody vaginal discharge that could be foul smelling
    • – Vaginal bleeding after intercourse and between menstrual periods
    • – Heavier periods that last for a longer than normal number of days

    Symptoms when cancer has spread:

    • – Painful urination
    • – Blood in the urine
    • – Pain and/ or bleeding from the rectum while passing stools
    • – Fatigue
    • – Pelvic/ Abdominal pain
    • – Dull back pain
    • – Swelling in lower limbs
  • Uterine Cancer Symptoms

    Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer or Uterine Sarcoma include:

    • – Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
    • – Vaginal bleeding or spotting post menopause
    • – Clear white vaginal discharge post menopause
    • – Extremely prolonged, heavy vaginal bleeding in women over 40 years of age
  • Vaginal Cancer Symptoms

    Main Symptoms include:

    • – Lump in the vagina
    • – Skin changes/ulcers in and around the vagina

    Other Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer:

    • – Vaginal bleeding post menopause
    • – Vaginal bleeding during or after intercourse
    • – Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
    • – Painful urination
    • – A persistent itch in the vaginal region
    • – Foul smelling bloody vaginal discharge
  • Vulvar Cancer Symptoms:

    Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer include:

    • – Persistent itching in the vulvar region
    • – Pain and tenderness
    • – Ulcers or skin thickening in and around the vulvar
    • – Vaginal Bleeding between menstrual periods
    • – Lumps or genital warts

If any of these symptoms last for more than two weeks, a visit to the gynaecologist is important. The doctor will prescribe relevant investigative tests and based on the results you may need to consult with an oncologist who specialises in gynaecologic cancers. Never ignore any inexplicable changes, growths, and aches in your body. The earlier you catch cancer, the higher the rate of survival.


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