Gynaecological cancers: what to know to prevent them

Gynaecological cancers are malignant diseases that affect the female genital apparatus. Approximately 4 million women worldwide fall ill with a gynaecological malignancy each year and about one third die from the disease

The main forms of cancer are uterine cancer (endometrium and cervix), ovarian cancer and, more rarely, cancer of the vulva and vagina.

Gynaecological cancers: what is the most important aspect of dealing with these diseases?

Definitely prevention and early diagnosis.

It is essential, therefore, that women undergo periodic check-ups and report any symptoms such as: loss of blood or other types of blood from the genitals, pain in the pelvic and/or abdominal area, non-specific gastrointestinal symptoms or disorders such as nausea and/or vomiting, altered bowel movements (constipation, diarrhoea) or a sudden increase in abdominal circumference.

All of these should be reported to your GP or gynaecologist, even if they may appear to be symptoms of a different kind.

Cervical cancer, what can we do today?

With regard to cervical cancer (cervix uteri), much has been done in terms of prevention, both with the Pap Test, but even more with the detection of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection through the HPV test and with vaccination against this infection because we know that most (more than 70%) of cervical cancers are caused by this virus. In these terms, screening for HPV infection and the possibility of vaccination has over the years resulted in early diagnosis of cervical cancer forms at an early stage, or even better, lowered the mortality rate for this disease.

Furthermore, the same screening and vaccination campaign against HPV infection has reduced the development of HPV-related malignant forms of the vulva as well as carcinoma of the anus and oropharynx, partially HPV-related cancers.

Gynaecological cancers: ovary and endometrium, what symptoms and how to diagnose them?

For ovarian and endometrial cancers there is today no validated prevention in terms of testing or vaccination.

In particular for endometrial cancer, there are symptoms and signs that the woman can report such as vaginal bleeding unrelated to the menstrual cycle, and with the help of diagnostic tools (ultrasound with vaginal probe, hysteroscopy) it is possible to confirm the diagnosis of suspected cancer.

With regard to ovarian cancer, on the other hand, the lack of specific symptomatology should lead the woman to report any symptom even if it is not related to the genital apparatus: the diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the early stages is crucial.

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Policlinico Milano

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