The gynecological cancers are cancers in the cervix, womb, ovaries, vagina and vulva. Of these the cancers of cervix, womb and ovaries are relatively common. Each of these cancers is different in its risk factors, screening options, presentation, and response to treatment and survival rates.
The common symptoms are abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain in lower abdomen, back ache, bloating, loss of appetite and change in urinary and bowel habits. None of these are characteristic of any particular cancer and can happen even in benign conditions.
Screening tests can enable us to detect the disease even before it happens. Screening for cervical cancer by pap smear is extremely effective and enables us to detect changes in the cervix that are precancerous. Effective treatment can be given even before the cancer happens.
Unfortunately there is no reliable, practical and effective means of screening for all the other gynecological cancers. Uterine cancers present with vaginal bleeding early and therefore are diagnosed in early stages where treatment can be very effective. Ovarian cancers many times present quite late. Treatment then depends on the stage of the disease.
The treatment for all cancers depends on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. Common treatment modalities are surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Most patients may need various combinations of these modalities. Surgery involves removal of the cancerous mass, commonly the organs involved, the lymph nodes and sometimes adjacent organs that may be involved. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs and radiation involves the use of high-energy rays (just like X-rays) that kill the cancer cells, or stop them from growing.
Therefore patients need multi-disciplinary approach, highly qualified, and experienced team of experts for the appropriate management to achieve the best results. Dr Sangeeta Agrawal is an expert gynecologist attached to a hospital where the whole team and infrastructure is available for the best treatment.