Types of Gynecologic Cancer

Types of Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer is not a single type of cancer, but instead refers to a group of cancers that affect different parts of the female reproductive system. Together, they are the 4th most common cancer in women in the US. While all women are at risk of developing gynecologic cancer, the risk increases with age. Cancer is easiest to treat at an early stage before it has spread. Outlined below are the most common types of gynecologic cancer.

Types of Gynecologic Cancers

Gynecologic cancers occur when cancerous cells develop in the female reproductive system. This type of cancer can spread to other parts of the body over time. The exact type of gynecologic cancer that is diagnosed depends on the exact area that is affected. There are five main types of gynecologic cancer.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, the narrow end of the uterus that connects the uterus and vagina.

Types of Cervical Cancer:

  • Squamous cell: Begins in cells within the lining of the cervix.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Begins in cells that make fluids and mucus.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.

Cervical cancer is the only type of gynecologic cancer that has a screening test. This test, known as a Pap Test, is a routine test that can help catch cervical cancer early before it has had an opportunity to spread. In addition, cervical cancer is largely preventable with vaccination.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer begins in the uterus, which is also known as the womb. Cancers in the uterus may start in different parts.

Types of Uterine Cancer:

  • Endometrial: The most common type of uterine cancer. Starts in the inner lining of the uterus.
  • Uterine sarcoma: An uncommon type. Affects the supporting muscle and tissue of the uterus.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer refers to the cancers that affect the ovaries, fallopian tube, and peritoneum. The ovaries are small, oblong organs which contain eggs and produce female hormones. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus.

The peritoneum is tissue that lines the abdominal wall as well as many organs, including the fallopian tubes. Cancer can start in the peritoneum and spread into ovaries or fallopian tubes. Under a microscope, these types of cancer look the same as ovarian cancer because the disease starts in the same cells.

Types of Ovarian Cancer:

  • Ovarian epithelial cancer: The most common type of ovarian cancer. Begins in the tissue that covers the ovaries.
  • Ovarian germ cell cancer: A less common type that begins begins in the egg cells within the ovary.
  • Fallopian tube cancer: A very rare cancer that begins in the fallopian tubes.

Ovarian cancer is often hard to catch early as this type of cancer may not show signs or symptoms.

Other Ovary-Related Conditions:

  • Ovarian low malignant potential tumor: A disease that affects tissues that covers the ovaries, but is not cancer. This condition rarely becomes cancer.
  • Ovarian cysts: A non-cancerous condition that can develop in the ovaries naturally and usually goes away on their own.

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer starts in the birth canal (vagina) which connects the cervix and uterus to the outside of the body.

Types of Vaginal Cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The most common type of vaginal cancer. Occurs in the cells which line the vagina.
  • Adenocarcinoma: A less common type that starts in cells which create fluids and mucus.
  • Melanoma: An uncommon type. Forms on the skin of the vagina on the lower or outer portion. Usually appears as a dark-colored tumor.
  • Sarcoma: A rare type that forms in the wall, not the surface area, of the vagina.

Most vaginal cancers are the result of HPV infections. Vaginal cancers may not cause signs or symptoms, but may be found during a pelvic exam.

Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer starts in or on the outer portion of the female genitalia. This type of cancer usually occurs on the inner folds of the labia.

Types of Vulvar Cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Most vulvar cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which starts in the cells which form the skin.
  • Adenocarcinoma: An uncommon type, which starts in the cells which create fluids and mucus.
  • Melanoma: A rare type that affects the pigment-producing cells of the skin.

HPV infections may result in up to half of the cases of vulvar cancer. Vulvar cancer may also result from a precancerous condition called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). VIN are changes in the skin that are not yet cancer but can become one over time. Although VIN may or may not become cancerous, it is important to seek treatment to prevent cancer from developing

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