Gynaecological oncology is a specialised field of medicine that focuses on cancers of the female genital tract.
While gynaecological cancer awareness in Malaysian women has increased over the years, it is still not at the intended level. Education on key aspects like screening, early diagnosis, risk factors and common symptoms needs to be provided to women in all age groups.
Gynaecological cancers symptoms
Ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, and vulvar cancers are types of cancers treated by a gynaecological oncologist.
It happens as a result of the growth of abnormal cells within the ovaries. This cancer does not show any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. However, some signs that may appear are:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal bloating/swelling and a feeling of being full
- Discomfort in the pelvic region
- A frequent need to urinate
- Changes in bowel habits
- Changes in menstrual pattern
Also known as endometrial cancer, it begins in the layers of the uterus known as the endometrium. Since this cancer shows early signs like abnormal vaginal bleeding, it is often easier to detect.
Common signs include:
- Bleeding even after the periods have finished for the month
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Pelvic discomfort or pain
This type of cancer originates in the cells of the cervix. It is understood that various strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), which is a sexually transmitted infection, is one of the main causes of cervical cancer.
The early stages of this cancer may produce no noticeable signs. However, some common symptoms are:
- Vaginal bleeding between periods/ after menopause
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
- Foul odour vaginal discharge
As the name suggests, this cancer happens when the cells in the vaginal lining start multiplying abnormally.
The early stages of this cancer may not show any symptoms. However, once it progresses, the following signs may be noticed:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, after menopause
- Watery discharge from the vagina
- Feeling a lump in the vagina
- Painful and frequent urination
- Pelvic discomfort and pain
Vulval cancer occurs in the vulva which is the outer skin that surrounds the urethra and vagina. It can be felt as a lump or sore on the vulva and may often cause excessive itching. This cancer is more common in older women.
Common symptoms include:
- Uncontrolled itching
- Pain and tenderness in parts of the vulva
- Bleeding from the skin
- Other skin changes
- A lump or sore that can be felt
Gynaecological cancers risk factors
While there are no definite causes of gynaecological cancers, several risk factors include:
- HPV infection
- Old age
- Family history
- Previous incidence of having a gynaecological cancer
- Prior radiation therapy in the pelvic area
- Oestrogen therapy
Gynaecological cancers diagnosis
Regular visit to the gynaecologist is the best way for an early diagnosis of cancer. The doctor may conduct physical exams like checking the pelvis for masses, and irregularities. They may also conduct a pap smear test to check for cancer cells in the cervix.
If cancer is suspected, further testing that may be required include:
- CT scan or MRI
- Examination Under Anaesthesia(EUA)
- Diagnostic laparoscopy
- CA-125 blood test
Treatments for gynaecological cancers
The treatment of gynaecological cancers depends on the kind and the spread/stage of cancer.
Common treatments include surgical removal, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Treatment may also depend on the age and current medical condition of the patient.
After assessing all factors, a doctor may use one or a combination of many treatment options.
Surgeons and oncologists at Gleneagles Hospitals
At Gleneagles, the team of accredited surgeons and oncologists are experienced and skilled in managing gynaecological cancer.
Besides surgery, there is also a wide range of cancer treatments available including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy to destroy the cancer cells effectively, aiming for quality of life after treatment.
Rest assured that your care is in good hands as the team of surgeons and oncologists are at the forefront of training, bringing together advanced care practices and outstanding outcomes to you.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms of gynaecological cancers, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention for diagnosis and treatment. Learn more about cancer care and Oncology services at Gleneagles Hospitals.