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Published on December 11, 2013

Reducing the Risk of Gynecologic Cancers

There are some cancers that aren’t often talked about. Yet as important as it is to discuss the risks and symptoms of well-known cancers, we need to also shed light on others that are just as severe.

In 2010, approximately 83,750 women were diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, which starts in the female reproductive organs including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, and vulva. And every year, almost 28,000 women die as a result.

So, yes, this is an important conversation.

Since symptoms may be subtle or not appear at all in those with a gynecologic cancer, many women don’t discover they have cancer until it’s progressed to a later stage.

However, there are some ways women can put their health first to prevent the development of these types of cancer. Here’s what you should know and do:

  • Know Your Family History. A family history of any type of cancer can increase your risk of developing it, especially if you have family members with breast or ovarian cancer. Those with a family history of colon or uterine cancer may also be at an increased risk of gynecological cancers.
  • Get tested. There are three important tests to remember: the Pap smear, the HPV test, and the genetic test. The Pap smear is one of the most effective cancer screening exams available, and it can help you discover precancerous changes or malignant masses that may indicate cervical cancer. Your doctor might also recommend an HPV test to see if you have an HPV infection, which can increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, a genetic test might be recommended to see if you inherited a gene that could increase your chances of ovarian and breast cancer.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Stick to a healthy diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Make sure you get plenty of physical exercise for 30 minutes at least three times at week. You should also quit smoking and practice safe sex.
  • Know Your Body: And pay attention to it. Learn what’s normal for your body and take notice of any changes you may experience, such as abnormal bleeding or discoloration that may last for two weeks or longer. In this case, see your physician immediately.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your chances of developing uterine cancer, as well as many other health conditions. Losing weight can also improve survival rates in those who have already been diagnosed.
  • Get vaccinated. HPV is responsible for most cervical cancers, and it’s important that women receive the necessary vaccinations as advised by their physician.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients. Joel Noumoff, M.D., gynecologic oncologist, can be reached at (610) 876-9640.

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