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September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize the impact of reproductive tract cancers, share personal stories, and educate people about screening, prevention, and treatment options.
Gynecologic cancer is a massive women's health issue, with approximately 98,000 women diagnosed each year with one of these types of cancer, and around 30,000 deaths resulting from them.
There are five types of gynecologic cancer:
Each of these cancers is unique, with different signs, symptoms, risk factors, and prevention strategies.
All women are at risk for gynecologic cancer, and that risk increases with age. There are ways to reduce your risk, however:
The CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the United States. Find out if you qualify!
Hereditary factors play a part in your risk for one of these cancers, as well as a personal history with a gynecologic cancer or breast cancer. An HPV diagnosis increases your risk for cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. But you may develop a gynecologic cancer even without a family history, or even if you're not high-risk, so it's important to know the symptoms.
Each gynecological cancer has a different set of warning signs, and some of these symptoms can be shared between multiple cancers. We're going to take a quick look at common symptoms and their associated cancers below:
Vulvar cancer has some unique symptoms:
Always check with your doctor if you're experiencing unusual symptoms, especially if they last for two weeks or longer, or are abnormal for your body. Vaginal bleeding after menopause, as well as unusual or irregular periods, should definitely be reported to your doctor. Symptoms like these aren't always signs of cancer, but should be followed up on to determine a cause.
Remember, early detection has a massive influence on cancer survivability. You know what's normal for your body. Keeping track of physical changes, using the CDC's helpful Gynecologic Cancer Symptoms Diary, and following up with a medical professional are as important as regular cancer screenings.