About Gynecologic Cancers
In this section, we provide an overview of the signs and symptoms of some of the most common types of gynecologic and urogenital tract cancers that affect women, including:
Endometrial Cancer (also Uterine Cancer)
Endometriosis and Risk of Certain Cancers
Fibroids and Risk of Certain Cancer
About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in US women. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12%. Although there is no prevention for breast cancer, proper screening can detect early breast cancers, which have the best prognosis.
Breast Cancer – Signs and Symptoms
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle
- a mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea
- a change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
- a blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple
- a change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed)
- redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
- an area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast
- a marble-like hardened area under the skin
- painful nipples
- breast microcalcifications
- weakness and/or unexplained onset of fatigue
- persistent fever
- unusual changes in fingernails, hair, and/or skin, including unusual rashes
- Unexplained and sudden weight loss
- lump or swelling of lymph nodes (either in armpit and/or neck)
- night sweats
- loss of appetite, difficulty eating or feeling of fullness
- nausea and vomiting
- pubertal development, and abnormal hair growth (with tumors that secrete hormones)
Screening and Diagnosis Breast Cancer
There has been a lot of debate in the media about breast cancer screening. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists looked at all of the available studies on breast cancer screening and came out with official recommendations in August of 2011. The following were their recommendations, which were endorsed by the American Cancer Society:
- Woman should begin self-breast exams at age 20 years and look for any changes or lumps that may arise.
- Women ages 20-39 should have clinical breast exams by a physician every 1-3 yrs.
- Women age 40 yrs or older should have annual clinical breast exams. Also at age 40 women should begin yearly mammography exams.
- If the woman has a first-degree relative who has had breast cancer, she should start screening tests 10 years prior to the age of diagnosis of her relative.
Although a mammography can show suspected breast, a definitively diagnosis can only be made with a biopsy-confirmed histopathologic assessment. If there is a suspicious lesion or growth seen on mammogram, your doctor will refer you to a breast surgeon who can biopsy the lesion.
- Family History
- genetics – BRCA1/2 gene positive
- older age
- caucasian race
- having no children
- late onset of menopause or early onset of menstruation
- history of benign breast disease
- radiation therapy – A woman who had radiation therapy to the chest (including the breasts) before age 30 is at an increased risk of developing breast cancer throughout her life.
- diffuse and indeterminate breast microcalcifications or dense breasts
- lobular carcinoma in situ – Preventive mastectomy is sometimes considered for a woman with lobular carcinoma in situ, a condition that increases the risk of developing breast cancer in either breast.
Prevention: Protective factors for breast cancer include:
Women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer may consider preventive mastectomy as a way of decreasing their risk of this disease. Preventive mastectomy (also called prophylactic or risk-reducing mastectomy) is the surgical removal of one or both breasts; depending on what your doctor recommends, it may or may not involve the removal of the nipples. It is done to prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high risk of developing the disease. Existing data suggest that preventive mastectomy may significantly reduce (by about 90 percent) the chance of developing breast cancer in moderate- and high-risk women. Like all surgical procedures of this nature, it’s important to talk with a doctor about the risk of developing breast cancer, the surgical procedure and its potential complications, and alternatives to surgery.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Treatment is surgical and varies depending on the stage of breast cancer. Earlier staged breast cancer can often be surgically resected without further treatment. For more advanced stages, radiation and chemotherapy may also be given.
Contrary to popular beliefs, gynecological cancers can be treated minimally invasively
The removal of gynecological cancers previously required a large incision along the entire length of the abdomen (laparotomy), often hip bone to hip bone. These painful surgical methods of yesteryear often led to serious, life-threatening complications that often caused more injury (and mortality) than the cancer itself. However, Drs. Camran and Farr Nezhat proved that such debilitating large incisions were no longer necessary when they became the first to completely remove even the largest gynecological tumors (including para aortic lymph node dissection) laparoscopically and robotically. And, because laparoscopy provides better visualization of the abdominal cavity, it actually allows surgeons to remove even more cancerous growths and perform even more complete lymph node dissections than was possible using the traditional surgical technique of laparotomy.