There are several major types of Gynecological cancers (cancer of the female reproductive system) these include:
There are several cancers and several more benign tumors that may occur in the ovaries. Most cancers are called epithelial cell tumors, which are the focus of this article. These tumors may grow to a considerable size before they cause severe symptoms. Malignant ovarian tumors may spread by shedding cells into the peritoneal cavity, which then causes metastasis throughout the abdomen—making these tumors difficult to treat. Early detection is very important to help prevent the cancer from spreading.
A specific cause of ovarian cancer has not been discovered, but certain risk factors are associated with the disease. Having a family history of ovarian cancer puts you at much higher risk. Your reproductive (female) history may also affect your risk, such as the number of times you have been pregnant and when you started and stopped your periods. In addition, there may be some environmental factors, but these are not definite.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among US women and the leading cause of death due to cancer of the gynecologic organs.
Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that connects the uterus with the vagina. It is the outlet of the uterus through which menses flow and babies are delivered. Normally, the cells of the cervix divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing in an unregulated manner, a mass of tissue forms. This mass is called a tumor. A tumor can be benign or malignant. In the cervix, cancer can arise either from the squamous cells (squamous cell carcinoma) that line the outer surface of the cervix or the glandular cells that are found in the channel that connects to the rest of the womb (adenocarcinoma).
A benign tumor is not cancer. It will not spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor is cancer. Cancer cells divide and damage tissue around them. They can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. This can be life-threatening.
Pap smears are largely responsible for the significant decline in deaths from cervical cancer over the past 30-40 years. Despite this success, 11,270 women in the US still learn they have cervical cancer each year.
Cervical cancer comes in two major forms:
- Squamous cell cancer—arises form the cells on the outermost portion of the cervix that connects with the vagina
- Adenocarcinoma—arises from the gland cells that are found on the inner lining of the cervical canal
Squamous cancer is more common than adenocarinoma. Many cases of squamous cancer are associated with infection with a virus ( human papillomavirus or HPV), which, in addition to increasing the risk for cervical cancer, causes tell-tale changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes can be detected by Pap smear and indicate an increased risk for developing cervical cancer.
A vaccine has recently been developed to protect against infection by some (but not all) of the HPV strains associated with cervical cancer.
Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus (womb).
The uterus is a pear-shaped organ vital to child bearing. During a woman’s fertile years, the uterus prepares each month to receive and nourish a fertilized egg. Hormonal changes direct the uterine lining to thicken. If no fertilized egg arrives, the uterus sheds the additional cells during menstruation. If the egg is fertilized, the developing fetus grows inside the uterus.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case uterus cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.
The walls of the uterus are made up of the endometrium, the inner lining, and the myometrium, the muscular, outer lining. The most common type of cancer of the uterus begins in the endometrium. There are different types of endometrial cancers. All of these tumors involve the glandular cells. The most common type is endometrioid adenocarcinomas. The other types, papillary serous adenocarcinomas and clear cell adenocarcinomas, grow and spread more rapidly than endometrioid adenocarcinomas.
Ninety-fine percent of uterine cancers are endometrial cancers. Other, more rare types of uterine cancers include:
- Stromal sarcomas, which develop in the stroma or connective tissue
- Carcinosarcomas or malignant mixed mesodermal tumors, which combine characteristics of endometrial cancer and sarcomas
- Leiomyosarcomas, which begin in the myometrium (muscle wall of the uterus)
The information provided here will focus solely on endometrial cancer. Treatment and prognosis for these rare forms of cancer differ from endometrial cancer.
Who Is Affected
Endometrial cancer is the most common female reproductive-tract cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates 39,300 women will learn they have the disease this year, and 7,400 will die from it. Lifetime risk of developing the disease is 2.45%. Endometrial cancer rarely occurs in women younger than 40. The risk of developing it increases with age.
To find a doctor, please click on the tab above marked "Find a Physician"
Call the HealthLine at 210-575-0355 or 1-800-333-7333, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Send us an email or contact a specific hospital or facility.