Gynecologic Oncology - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Gynecologic Oncology

Gynecologic cancers are often best treated by a physician who is specially trained in this area. The gynecologic oncologists, who see patients at all three of Crozer-Keystone's cancer centers, are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of pre-malignant and malignant conditions of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, as well as gestational trophophobic disease, an unusual complication of pregnancy.

A gynecologic oncologist can perform surgery, administer chemotherapy or recommend radiation therapy—or combine therapies—without fragmenting care among many physicians. In most cases, women receive a referral to a gynecologic oncologist from their gynecologist or primary care physician.

Crozer-Keystone offers additional gynecologic oncology services including the Healthy Woman Project, which provides eligible, low-income women with free early cancer detection services. For additional information, see our Support Services.

Types of Gynecologic Cancer

Each year, more than 82,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cancers impacting the reproductive organs. These cancers fall into four major categories.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer affects the tissues of the cervix, the narrow lower end of the uterus that leads from the uterus to the vagina.

Symptoms: bleeding after intercourse; excessive discharge between menstrual periods.

Risk factors: Smoking, multiple sexual partners, HIV, HPV wart virus infection, and early age of first intercourse.

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus.

Symptoms: Any bleeding after menopause or irregular vaginal bleeding before menopause.

Risk factors: Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, use of hormones and late menopause. Women who have not been pregnant have a slightly higher risk.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries, a pair of organs located in the pelvis that produce eggs and female hormones.

Symptoms: Though ovarian cancer usually causes very few specific symptoms, they can include pressure or fullness in the pelvis, abdominal bloating or changes in bowel and bladder patterns.

Risk factors: Include age, family history and few or no pregnancies.

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers

Vaginal and vulvar cancers affect the vagina, or birth canal, and the vulva, the outer part of the vagina.

Symptoms: Itching, bleeding or a mass in the vulva area.

Risk factors: Advanced age or other pre-malignant conditions.

Diagnosis

Because the symptoms of most common gynecologic cancers are often minimal and may sometimes be mistaken for another condition, women of all ages are advised to schedule a regular gynecologic exam and Pap test. The Pap test is the preferred method for detecting gynecologic cancers of the cervix or vagina. How often a woman should receive a Pap test varies according to a woman’s age and sexual history and as well as other risk factors. Consult your physician about how often to schedule these exams.

Pay attention to any changes or problems that occur throughout your monthly cycle and carefully document these occurrences for a discussion with your physician. Immediately report any bleeding after menopause to your physician. In addition, report any painful cramps, appetite changes and vaginal discharge. These are usually easily explained and treated, but they can be early warning signs of gynecologic cancers.

Crozer-Keystone offers an array of advanced techniques and technologies for early cancer detection.

Treatment

Like all malignancies, gynecologic cancers are treated in three ways: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Delaware County Memorial Hospital offer the latest techniques and technologies for each of these types of treatments.

Surgerical oncology can be used to remove a tumor or the entire affected organ. Crozer’s and DCMH's' surgeons are board-certified and highly experienced in high-tech cancer treatment techniques.

Radiation oncology is the use of X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy may use external radiation (using a machine outside the body) or internal radiation, which involves putting radioisotopes (materials that produce radiation) through thin plastic tubes into the area where cancer cells are found, a process called brachytherapy. In addition, the Crozer Regional Cancer Center offers Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, or IMRT, a form of external radiation in which a high dose of radiation is delivered directly to the tumor while minimizing the effects on surrounding organs and tissue.

Medical oncology, including chemotherapy, is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by mouth or injected into the body. Both methods are called systemic treatment because drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and kill cancer cells throughout the body. Certain drugs may be combined to enhance their effects.

Each patient’s treatment plan is individually tailored, based on the type of cancer, the tumor size, the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age, and other factors. The latest research has shown that in some instances, a combination of treatments has resulted in higher cure rates and fewer side effects for the patient.

Support Services

The Crozer Regional Cancer Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and the Delaware County Regional Cancer Center at Delaware County Memorial Hospital offer a range of comprehensive services for their patients, some of which are not available at other hospitals.

Because a cancer diagnosis brings changes and challenges to everyday life, Crozer-Keystone Health System offers a special support groups for women undergoing treatment for gynecologic cancers. The group includes discussions of the emotional aspects of a cancer diagnosis, offers support, and gives women the opportunity to share their experiences and express concerns. “Talk Out Loud” is held monthly at the Crozer Regional Cancer Center. Call 610-447-2646 for more information.

The Proactive Energy Program helps patients battle the side effects of cancer treatments, particularly loss of energy, through emotional support, physical activity and nutrition counseling. Patients are referred into the program by their oncologist. Call 610-447-2646 for more information.

Look Good, Feel Better is a nonmedical, brand-neutral public service program cosponsored by CKHS and The American Center Society that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to manage their appearance. For more information, call 610-447-2655.

The Crozer Regional Cancer Center offers a range of integrative medicine offerings, such as yoga, acupuncture and cooking demonstrations. Call 610-447-2646 for more information.

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