Uterine, vaginal, cervical, ovarian, and vulvar cancers are gynecologic cancers. Almost 100,000 women will be diagnosed with a gynecological cancer in 2015. Cervical cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer worldwide. Most gynecologic cancers are difficult to detect because they have few symptoms.
Uterine cancer, or endometrial cancer, is the cancer that begins in the pear-shaped organ in the women's pelvis responsible for fetal development. Most uterine cancers begin in the lining of the uterus and are called endometrial carcinomas. Some may develop in the muscle layers and are called uterine sarcomas. Most cases of uterine cancer occur in women over the age of 55.
Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that begins in the small, short tube (also called the birth canal) that leads from the vulva to the cervix. Most vaginal cancers are squamous cell carcinoma that begins in the flat cells that line the vagina. Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the cause of the majority of vaginal cancers.
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that leads to the vagina. It is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide, but it is not as common in the United States where screening tests are generally used.
Vulvar cancer is cancer of the outer skin and tissue surrounding the clitoris. It is most common in or around the labia. Vulvar cancer is a slow growing cancer. Almost 90% of all vulvar cancers are classified as squamous cell carcinoma.
Ovarian Cancer is a cancer that begins in an ovary. It results in abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
Uterine, Vaginal, Cervical, and Vulvar Cancer Facts and Statistics
Statistics and facts about uterine cancer:
- Uterine cancer is the 4th most common cancer in women.
- In 2015, there will be an estimated 54,870 new cases of uterine or endometrial cancer in the United States.
- About 10,170 women will die of uterine cancer in 2015 in the United States.
- The average five-year survival rate for uterine cancer is about 85% if the cancer is in its earliest stages. The rate drops below 20% once the cancer has spread and is in advanced stages.
- The average age of uterine cancer diagnosis is 60 years old.
Statistics and facts about vaginal cancer:
- Vaginal cancer accounts for about 6% of all gynecological cancers in the United States.
- In 2015, there will be an estimated 4,070 new cases of vaginal cancer in the United States.
- About 910 women will die of vaginal cancer in 2015 in the United States.
- The average 5-year survival rate for uterine cancer is about 84% if the cancer is in its earliest stages. The rate drops below 60% once the cancer has spread and is in advanced stages.
- Almost 50% of all vaginal cancer cases occur in women over the age of 70.
Statistics and facts about cervical cancer:
- Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in women. It used to be the most common cancer among women, but screening tests can now detect lesions before they turn cancerous.
- In 2015, there will be an estimated 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States.
- About 4,100 women will die of cervical cancer in 2015 in the United States.
- The average five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is about 93% if the cancer is in its earliest stages. The rate drops below 20% once the cancer has spread and is in advanced stages.
- The average age of a cervical cancer diagnosis is 47 years of old.
Statistics and facts about vulvar cancer:
- Vulvar cancer accounts for about 4% of all gynecological cancers.
- In 2015, there will be an estimated 5,150 new cases of vaginal cancer in the United States.
- About 1,080 women will die of cervical cancer in 2015 in the United States.
- The average five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is about 86% if the cancer is in its earliest stages. The rate drops below 16% once the cancer has spread and is in advanced stages.
- The average age of a cervical cancer diagnosis is 65 years of old. Almost half of all vulvar cancers occur in women over the age of 70.
Statistics and facts about ovarian cancer:
- Ovarian cancer is diagnosed annually in nearly a quarter of a million women globally, and is responsible for 140,000 deaths each year.
- When ovarian cancer is detected at an early stage, when the cancer remains confined to the ovary, up to 90% of women are likely to survive for more than five years (the length of time over which survival is normally measured when assessing cancer treatment).
- Ovarian cancer is frequently diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage and women often delay seeking help.
- Many women mistakenly believe a cervical smear test (or Pap test) will detect ovarian cancer.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Although most risk factors and symptoms are specific to each gynecological cancer, there are risk factors common to all. General risk factors for gynecological caners include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection—previous infection with HPV increases the chances for vaginal, cervical, and vulvar cancers. The vast majority of cervical and vaginal cancer cases are caused by HPV.
- History of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia or HIV.
- Being over 50 years of age—most gynecological cancer cases occur in women over 40.
- Hormone and estrogen therapy—both increase the chance of uterine cancer.
- Long-term use of birth control pills or of an intrauterine device (IUD).
- Smoking tobacco—smoking more than doubles the chance of some gynecological cancers.
- Vaginal adenosis—a change of the type of cells that line the vagina, often associated with use of the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) that was used until the 70's to prevent miscarriages.
- Having a period that started early in life.
- Personal or family history of gynecological cancer or other gynecological problems.
Symptoms of gynecological cancers usually do not occur until more advanced stages, and most of the symptoms may point to a condition that is not cancer. Many gynecological cancers share similar symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause.
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain in the pelvis and weight loss
- A change in the color or texture of the vulva skin
- Pain, burning, or itching
- Development of a bump or mass
Diagnosing Uterine, Vaginal, Cervical, Ovarian and Vulvar Cancer
Gynecological cancers have clear risk factors, screening tests, and early warning signs that should provide a clear path to diagnosis for doctors.
Unusual bleeding, the most common symptom of gynecological cancer, should be thoroughly investigated by doctors even though it may be indicative of another condition. Doctors will take into account risk factors and symptoms, as well as the patient's personal and family health history and decide if additional tests are needed.
Doctors should recommend Pap tests or Pap smears every three years for women over the age of 21. These tests are used to screen for cervical cancer, but doctors may also notice other unusual changes that could lead to other gynecological cancers. During a Pap smear the doctor will use a tool to examine the vagina and cervix, and will swab the cervix to test for cancerous cells. Doctors may also recommend using the Pap smear sample to test for HPV, a leading risk factor for many gynecological cancers.
In addition to Pap tests, doctors should recommend physical pelvic exams during checkups.
If a gynecological cancer is suspected, doctors will need to take a biopsy or tissue sample to test for cancerous cells. Doctors may also use imaging scans like x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to assess the size of the cancerous tumor. Specific blood tests can also be ordered to if a gynecological cancer is suspected.
Uterine, Vaginal, Cervical, Ovarian and Vulvar Cancer Treatment
The main treatment option for most gynecological cancers is surgery. This treatment option ranges from laser surgery that removes cancer or precancerous spots from the skin, to removing parts of or the entirety of affected reproductive organs, like a hysterectomy.
Doctors may also use radiation or chemotherapy instead of or in addition to surgery to destroy cancer cells.
Maryland Lawsuits For Malpractice In Diagnosing Or Treating Uterine, Vaginal, Cervical, Ovarian and Vulvar Cancer
Most gynecological cancers are slow growing and show almost no symptoms in early stages. As such, many cases are diagnosed at more advanced stages. The symptoms of gynecological cancers are similar to symptoms of many other less serious conditions. For this reason, these cancers can be easily misdiagnosed.
Doctors need to be aware of the patient's full personal and family medical history, and should be alert to risk factors.
Doctors may have been negligent in their diagnosis if they failed to understand the patient's medical history, failed to take note of symptoms failed to order necessary diagnostic tests, misread results of diagnostic tests, or failed to properly communicate results to the patient and any specialists.
A negligent delay in diagnosing gynecological cancers can significantly reduce the patient's survival chances.
If your gynecological cancer was mishandled by a health care provider, contact our attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian for a free consultation. Our skilled attorneys are experienced in handling cancer cases. Contact our office to find out how our attorneys and on-staff physician will assess your case.