Going to the gynecologist is a trip most women never look forward to. The dreaded pelvic exam can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. It can also save your life.
Pelvic exams are a physical examination of the pelvic organs and include external genitals and internal organs such as the vagina, cervix and uterus. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a routine pelvic exam may uncover early detection of treatable conditions, such as infections or cancer.
Types of Gynecologic Cancer:
Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs and symptoms, different risk factors and different prevention strategies. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.
Cervical Cancer begins in the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (also called the womb). It occurs most often in women over 40. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that to lower one’s risk for cervical cancer women should use condoms during sex, limit the number of sexual partners and not smoke.
Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding after sex.
In order to prevent cervical cancer, it is important to get vaccinated early and have regular screening tests. The (HPV) vaccination is recommended for preteens 11 to 12 years and everyone through age 26, if they are not vaccinated.
Ovarian Cancer begins in the ovaries, which are located on each side of the uterus. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths each year than any other gynecologic cancer in the United States. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, for every 100,000 women, 10 new ovarian cancer cases were reported, and six women died of this cancer.
Be aware of possible symptoms that are not normal such as vaginal bleeding, pain/pressure in the pelvic area, abdominal or back pain, bloating, feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating, or a change in bathroom habits.
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, but there are things associated with a lower chance of getting it. These include having used birth control pills for five or more years; having had a tubal ligation, both ovaries removed or a hysterectomy; having given birth; breastfeeding.
Uterine Cancer begins in the uterus, the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis where the baby grows when she is pregnant. It is the most common gynecologic cancer in the United States. The CDC indicates that for every 100,000 women, 28 new uterine cases were reported, and five women died. The most common type of uterine cancer is called endometrial cancer, because it forms on the uterine lining, called the endometrium.
Uterine cancer may cause abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding and other symptoms, such as pain or pressure in your pelvis.
Just like ovarian cancer, there is no known way to prevent uterine cancer, but using birth control pills and maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active may reduce the chances of getting it.
Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers are rare in the U.S. The vagina is the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and outside of the body. The vulva is the outer portion of the female genital organs.
Most vaginal cancers do not cause signs or symptoms, but if there are symptoms, they may include abnormal bleeding or vaginal discharge, a change in bathroom habits, or pain the in pelvis. Vulvar cancer symptoms may also include itching, burning, bleeding in the vulva, sores, lumps, rashes or warts on the vulva, and pelvic pain, especially during sex or urination.
The HPV vaccine protects against the type of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
It is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have abnormal vaginal bleeding, see a doctor right away. Also see a doctor if you experience other symptoms two weeks or longer that are not normal for you.
Trinity’s women’s health specialists diagnose and treat disorders of the female reproductive system as well as conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period. The Trinity team of OB/GYN physicians and advanced practice providers focus on building a strong relationship with each patient. From the onset of puberty to menopause, you can trust that the women’s services experts at Trinity Health will be with you every step of the way.
Call Women’s Health or your doctor to schedule an appointment at: 701-857-5000.