Gynaecological Oncology

Gynaecological Oncology

Gynaecology is a branch of medicine concerned with female reproductive health, while obstetrics deals with pregnancy and childbirth. The two specialties have many areas of overlap, thus their cases are handled under one roof. A woman's life is divided into a number of distinct developmental stages, and the management of her health throughout each of these stages determines her overall well-being. Every phase in the reproductive lifecycle of a female, such as puberty, childbirth, and pre-and post- menopause, demands appropriate care and attention.

Gynaecological cancer is one that originates in the reproductive organs of a woman. There are different types of gynaecological cancers, depending on which part of the women’s reproductive system is involved.

Cervical cancer originates from the cervix, the narrow, lower end of the uterus. It starts in the ovaries that lie on each side of the uterus. Some ovarian cancers even originate from the peritoneum or the fallopian tubes. Uterine cancer originates from the uterus, the pear-shaped organ that lies in the pelvis of the woman (the organ where the baby grows during pregnancy). Vaginal cancer originates from the vagina, a tube-like organ that connects the bottom of the uterus to the outside of the body. Vulvar cancer originates from the vulva, the outer part of the female reproductive organs.

The signs and symptoms of every gynaecological cancer are unique. The risk factors and prevention strategies are also different for each cancer. All females are susceptible to developing gynaecological cancers and the risk goes on increasing with age. The treatment for gynaecological cancers is most effective when they are diagnosed early.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer originates from the cervix, the female reproductive organ that connects the uterus with the vagina. Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus, a common pathogen that causes sexually transmitted infections in humans. Due to this, regular cervical cancer screening for humans is recommended.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Following are some of the common symptoms for cervical cancer:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Bleeding after an intercourse or between periods
  • Heavier or longer periods than usual
  • Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding

Following are some of the symptoms of advanced cervical cancer:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Pain in the legs
  • Lower back pain

Can cervical cancer be prevented?

Yes. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in the world. Because most cervical cancers occur due to Human Papilloma Virus infection, taking measures to prevent HPV infections also prevents cervical cancer. Getting vaccinated against HPV decreases your susceptibility to developing both the infection and cancer.

The vaccine against HPV is most effective when taken in adolescence. You must talk to a healthcare provider to know about when you must take your vaccination and any other related guidelines. Complete vaccination against HPV infection includes two doses of the vaccine taken about six months apart. Therefore, whether you have had the vaccine when at school or from your doctor’s office, you must really try to get the second dose.

Another way to prevent cervical cancer is by undergoing cervical screening tests regularly. These screening tests are usually performed to detect HPV infection before it proceeds to cause cancer. Your risk for developing cervical cancer also increases if you smoke chronically. So if you are a smoker, it is high time that you consider quitting.

Uterine cancer

Uterine cancer originates from the cells of the uterus, the female reproductive organ located in the pelvic area where the baby grows. Uterine cancer is primarily of two types— uterine sarcomas and endometrial cancer that occurs in the uterine lining.

What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?

Following are some of the symptoms of uterine cancer:

  • Bleeding after menopause or between periods
  • Watery or bloody discharge that might be foul-smelling
  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • Pain during an intercourse
  • Difficulty urinating

Is screening available for uterine cancer?

No screening test is available for uterine cancer. Therefore, if you notice any changes, especially in terms of discharge, you must let your doctor know about it.

How can uterine cancer be prevented?

Your risk of developing uterine cancer can be reduced by making some lifestyle modifications. These include getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer originates from the cells of the ovaries. It may involve one or both the ovaries. Ovaries are the two small female reproductive organs that lie at either side of the uterus. Their function is to release hormones and store eggs or ovum. Cancer of the ovaries may not always give rise to symptoms. Even if symptoms are present, those may be non-specific, mimicking other similar conditions.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer include increased abdominal size, abdominal bloating, appetite loss, feeling of fullness soon after eating, changes in urinary habits, indigestion, bowel habit changes including constipation, and unexplained fatigue, weight loss or weight gain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms persistently, you must contact a healthcare provider.

How can I prevent ovarian cancer?

Some risk factors for ovarian cancer can’t be modified. For example, if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, mutation in the BRCA 1 or 2 gene, or colon or breast cancer, you can’t change it. You can, however, talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to reduce the risk and to maintain a normal health.

Obesity and smoking are both associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

  • The risk of ovarian cancer also increases if you have untreated sexually transmitted infections like chlamydial infection. Therefore, you must visit your healthcare provider regularly and get sexually transmitted infections treated adequately at the right time.
  • Using oral contraceptive pills, having children, and getting tubal ligation all decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Is screening available for ovarian cancer?

No screening test for ovarian cancer is available. Therefore, if you suspect having any symptoms of the disease, you must let your healthcare provider know about them.

Fallopian tube cancer

One or both fallopian tubes can develop fallopian tube cancer. They are the tube-like organs that connect your uterus to your ovaries.

Symptoms of fallopian tube cancer

Often, fallopian tube cancer won’t cause any symptoms. When it does cause symptoms, these can include:

  • Swelling of the lower abdomen without an increase in weight gain elsewhere
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Pain in the bottom of the abdomen or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Feeling pressure on the bowel or bladder
  • Feeling like when you go to the toilet, you can’t empty your bowel or bladder completely
  • Abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina

How can I prevent fallopian tube cancer?

An increased risk of fallopian tube cancer is linked to ongoing infection or inflammation of the tubes. This could be brought on by untreated STDs, so it's crucial to frequently examine your sexual health and seek medical care for any infections.

Screening for fallopian tube cancer

There is no proven screening test for fallopian tube cancer, making it essential to report any unusual changes to your doctor.

Vulvar cancer

Cancer of the vulva occurs on the female reproductive organs that lie outside the body of a woman. This includes the labia majora and minora, the perineum and the pubic mound, and the clitoris. Although cancer of the vulva can affect women at any age, it is more common in women who have gone through menopause.

What are vulvar cancer symptoms?

Following are some of the symptoms of vulvar cancer:

  • A sore, lump, swelling, or wart-like growth
  • Raised or thickened red, brown, or white patches of skin on the vulva
  • A sore or lesion on the vulva that releases pus, blood, or discharge
  • A mole that changes shape or colour
  • Swollen or hard lymph nodes in the groyne

What should I do if I notice a change in my vulva?

If you notice any of the above symptoms or any changes in your genital organs, you must talk to a healthcare provider. Properly self-examining your vulva can be really tricky, so talk to your gynaecologist and allow them to examine the area for any abnormal changes.

Is screening available for vulvar cancer?

No proven screening test for vulvar cancers is available. Therefore, it is vital for you to be familiar with the normal appearance and feel of this body part and let your healthcare provider know if you notice any abnormal pattern.

How can vulvar cancer be prevented?

Sometimes vulvar cancer is caused by HPV. Just like with cervical cancer, immunisation against HPV helps prevent vulvar cancer. The risk of vulvar cancers is also raised due to smoking. So, if you smoke, you must quit.

Vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer originates from the tissues of the vagina, the internal passage starting at the vulvar opening and running through the cervix. Vaginal cancer is a very rare form of gynaecological cancer. It commonly affects older women but can affect women of any age.

What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is usually asymptomatic, especially in earlier stages. Following are some of the symptoms of vaginal cancer:

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Blood-stained vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Vaginal lump
  • Difficulty urinating or increased frequency of urination
  • Rectal pain

Is screening available for vaginal cancer?

No proven screening test for vaginal cancer is available. Therefore, it is vital that you are familiar with the normal appearance and feel of this body part. You must also let your healthcare provider know if you experience any changes.

How can vaginal cancer be prevented?

Human Papillomavirus gives rise to vaginal cancer, so immunisation against this pathogen plays a role in the prevention of vaginal cancer. The risk of developing vaginal cancer is also increased by smoking. In fact, smoking doubles the risk of developing vaginal cancer. You need to quit smoking if you want to prevent vaginal cancer.

The Centre for Cancer at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore provides comprehensive treatment and care for a wide range of gynaecological cancers. Our hospital consists of highly qualified staff who have years of experience in treating such conditions. Consult the best oncologists in Indore to help diagnose and treat gynaecologic cancers. Our team is equipped with highly advanced medical instruments and offers the best treatment for gynaecological cancer in Indore.