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Female Reproductive Cancers Fact Sheet

What is cancer?

  • Cancer occurs when cells in the body grow out of control.

  • Cancers are named for the part of the body where they start.

How are reproductive cancers treated?

  • The treatment depends on the type of cancer.

  • Reproductive cancers are often treated with surgery, chemotherapy (medicine to kill cancer cells), hormone therapy (medicine to block hormones that are related to cancer growth), or radiation.

  • One or more of these treatments may be used together.

  • An oncologist (cancer doctor) can help you select the right treatment.

What are reproductive cancers

Reproductive cancers start in the organs related to reproduction (sex). These organs are located in the pelvis. The pelvis is the area in the lower belly between the hip bones.

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What are reproductive cancers?

  • Reproductive cancers start in the organs related to reproduction (sex). These organs are located in the pelvis. The pelvis is the area in the lower belly between the hip bones.
  • The most common reproductive cancers in women are:
    • terine (YOO-teh-rin)—begins in the uterus (womb), the organ where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
    • Cervical (SER-vih-kul)—begins in the cervix, the lower end of the uterus that attaches to the vagina.
    • Ovarian (oh-VAYR-ee-un)—begins in the ovaries, the two organs that make and house a woman's eggs.
    • Vaginal (VA-jih-nul)–begins in the vagina, the hollow channel that leads from the uterus to the outside of the body.
    • Vulvar (VUL-var)—begins in the vulva, the area around the opening of the vagina.
  • Breast cancer is sometimes considered a reproductive cancer too. Breast cancer begins in the tissues that make up the breast.

What are the early symptoms of reproductive cancers?

  • Each type of reproductive cancer has different symptoms.
    • Uterine-vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal, pressure or pain in the pelvic area.
    • Cervical-vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal.
    • Ovarian-vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal, pressure or pain in the pelvic area, belly or back, bloating.
    • Vaginal-vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal.
    • Vulvar-pressure or pain in the pelvic area, itching, burning, rash, or sores around the opening of the vagina.
    • Breast-a lump in the breast, fluid coming from the nipple, or changes in the skin around the nipple.
  • It's important to see a health care provider if you have any of these symptoms.

 

Are there tests to screen for reproductive cancers?

  • Many times people with early stages of cancer have no symptoms.
  • A screening test is used to find a disease before the person has any symptoms.
  • There are screening tests for some reproductive cancers.
    • Mammogram-x-ray test used to find breast cancer.
    • Pap smear-lab test of cells taken during pelvic exam to check for cancer.
  • There are no screening tests for the other reproductive cancers. For this reason, it is important to see a health care provider about any symptoms you experience.
  • Finding cancers early increases the chance of being able to cure. Regular exams with a health care provider can help find cancers early, even if there are no symptoms.
  • Diagnostic tests are used to find cancers in people who have symptoms.
  • The tests used to find reproductive cancers depend on the type of cancer. These tests include:
    • Lab tests—blood tests that sometimes show signs of cancer.
    • Imaging tests—x-rays and other tests that help doctors "see" inside the body
    • Ultrasound.
    • X-ray.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.
    • Computed Technology (CT) scan.
  • Biopsy-procedure where a health care provider removes small pieces of tissue to check for cancer.

How are reproductive cancers treated?

  • The treatment depends on the type of cancer.
  • Reproductive cancers are often treated with surgery, chemotherapy (medicine to kill cancer cells), hormone therapy (medicine to block hormones that are related to cancer growth), or radiation.
  • One or more of these treatments may be used together.
  • An oncologist (cancer doctor) can help you select the right treatment.

 

Sources

National Cancer Institute:

American Cancer Society

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention