Gynecologic cancer is an umbrella term that is often used to collectively describe several types of malignancies that can affect a woman’s reproductive system. They are cervical, ovarian, endometrial (uterine), vaginal and vulvar cancer. Each specific type has its own unique symptoms, and some types are more common than others. But, on the whole, gynecologic cancer should be on every woman’s radar. That’s because early diagnosis and treatment frequently translate to better outcomes and quality of life.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we perform extensive research with a goal to one day eliminate all forms of gynecologic cancer for good. While we have made significant progress to date, we still have much to learn. In the meantime, we encourage all women to take charge of their health by becoming familiar with their bodies, learning to recognize possible signs of gynecologic cancer and promptly seeing a physician if anything questionable occurs.
To help women know what to watch for, the gynecologic oncologists at Moffitt offer the following list of seven common warning signs that should never be ignored:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – This includes a menstrual flow that is unusually heavy or light, as well as any spotting or bleeding that occurs before age nine, between menstrual periods, during sexual intercourse, during pregnancy or after menopause.
- Unusual vaginal discharge – Vaginal discharge is normal and can vary in amount, consistency, color and odor due to hormonal fluctuations that can occur during the menstrual cycle, sexual arousal, pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, any significant changes should be brought to the attention of a physician, especially if the discharge is bloody or accompanied by vaginal burning, itching or pain.
- Constant abdominal pain – Ongoing discomfort in the form of pelvic cramps, pressure, bloating, queasiness, indigestion or gas should be evaluated by a physician.
- Urinary urgency – A frequent need to urinate, especially if accompanied by bladder pressure, abdominal fullness or bloating, may be a sign of a medical condition.
- Leg swelling – A woman should seek medical attention of one of her legs appears to be swollen, particularly if abdominal pain and vaginal discharge are also present.
- Unexplained weight loss or change in appetite – While everyone is encouraged to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight (which can provide numerous health benefits and even help prevent some types of cancer), a sudden loss of 10 or more pounds that is unrelated to diet or exercise should be investigated.
- Chronic fatigue – Everyone feels tired from time to time, but intense fatigue that does not improve with rest or interferes with daily activities may be a sign of an underlying health issue.
While none of these symptoms are definitive signs of female cancer, it’s always a good idea to have them checked out. The experienced and compassionate experts in the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Moffitt are available for consultations with or without referrals. Whether you have recently noticed new symptoms or are looking for a second opinion, our multispecialty team can help.
To request an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.