Gynecologic Cancer

What Is Gynecologic Cancer?

Comprehensive Radiation Therapy Cancer Treatment in Orange County

A cancer diagnosis can be one of life’s scariest experiences, but it’s never something you have to face alone. At Orange County CyberKnife, we’re proud to provide world-class, state-of-the-art cancer treatments to patients throughout the greater Orange County area. We strive to provide personalized, comprehensive treatments, working with our patients to create a treatment plan that effectively treats their condition while minimally disrupting their day-to-day routine. We treat a wide variety of cancers using the cutting-edge CyberKnife system, and we can treat all forms of gynecologic cancer at our facility.

About Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer refers to any cancer that develops in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina, or vulva. Gynecologic cancers affect nearly 100,000 new people every year, and while older women are most at risk, any woman can develop gynecologic cancer. As with all forms of cancer, gynecologic cancer is most easily treated with detected and diagnosed early on. Radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments may be used to treat gynecologic cancer depending on the location and stage of the cancer.

As every woman is at risk for gynecologic cancer, regular self-examinations and professional cancer screenings like pap smears are the best way to maximize your chances of beating gynecologic cancer. Detecting, diagnosing, and treating gynecologic cancer early provides the best method for eliminating the cancer and improving patient survival rates.

Gynecologic Cancer Statistics

A number of factors play a role in either directly causing or increasing the risk of gynecologic cancer:

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) or a previous history of cancer
  • Over 25,000 women die from gynecologic cancer each year
  • Women should start getting regular, preventive pap smears at age 21
  • Uterine cancer is the most common form of gynecologic cancer, followed by ovarian, cervical, vulvar, and finally vaginal cancer

Contact Your Orange County, CA Cancer Treatment Facility

No matter what form of cancer you’re diagnosed with, at Orange County CyberKnife, we’re committed to helping you reclaim whole-body health. We’re proud to provide a variety of high-quality cancer treatments to patients in our Orange County, CA cancer treatment facility, and we work with our patients to design personalized treatment plans that minimally impact day-to-day life. If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with cancer, we encourage you to call us at 714.962.7100 or reach out to us at our contact page. Even if you’ve already spoken with a doctor about your treatment options, we’re happy to provide a second opinion – and as a leading provider of cutting-edge CyberKnife radiation therapy treatment, we can often treat cases other facilities cannot. You deserve the best possible chance at beating cancer, no matter what condition you’re facing. Contact us today to start down the path towards healing.

Gynecologic Cancer: Types & Stages

There are five main types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive organs:

  • Cervical
  • Ovarian
  • Uterine
  • Vaginal
  • Vulvar

Although these cancers are all included in this subset, each type has its own unique qualities. We encourage you to contact our center to learn more about the various stages.

Gynecological Treatment Options

Orange County CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center is your best option for treating all types of cancer, including gynecological cancers. These types of cancers are diagnosed when abnormal cells located in the female reproductive organs multiply rapidly and spread. Specifically, areas of origin include the cervix, ovaries, vulva, vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 98,000 women per year are diagnosed with some form of gynecologic cancer and there almost 31,000 deaths annually.  Uterine cancer is, by far, the most prevalent form of gynecological cancers, accounting for almost 55,000 new cases in 2015. However, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in women.

Gynecological cancers may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain or pressure in the pelvis, abdomen or back, bloating, changes in the color, itching or burning of the vulva and increased urination, constipation or diarrhea.

Orange County CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center offers the most comprehensive array of radiation treatments in Southern California including the Hyperthermia, an effective treatment for gynecological cancers. Gynecological cancers can be cured if detected early. Regular well-woman screenings where a pap test is conducted help detect any changes in pre-cancerous cells in the cervix and vagina. Regular self-examinations can also detect some types of gynecologic cancers in the earlier stages when treatment will be more likely successful. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and knowing your family cancer history is also important.

Treatments for Gynecological Cancer

There are several variables that are taken into consideration when your gynecologic oncologist plans treatment for your cancer, including:

  • Type of cancer
  • Stage (or progress) of cancer
  • Location of cancer
  • Your overall health
  • Your medical preferences and lifestyle

You may need one type of treatment, or multiple types of treatment. Our radiation oncologists will work with your team to insure you have the best treatment available for your individual situation. Treatment options include:

  • Conventional surgery – In some cases, it may be possible to remove all or part of the cancerous tumor. This will depend on which type of gynecological cancer you have and how far it has spread.
  • Chemotherapy – This treatment uses special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer.
  • Radiation – Radiation  therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer. At Orange County CyberKnife, we have the most comprehensive selection of radiation treatments available in Southern California, along with the world-renowned doctors to implement them. Radiation therapy works within cancer cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them. Healthy tissues are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way cancer cells cannot.
    • External Radiation Therapy – delivers treatment from a machine outside your body. External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments to deliver radiation to the cancer accurately. Treatments are painless and are similar to getting an X-ray.
      • 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) – combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver precise doses of radiation to the affected area. Tailoring each of the radiation beams to focus on the tumor delivers a high dose of radiation to the tumor and avoids nearby healthy tissue.
      • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – is the most recent advance in the delivery of radiation. IMRT improves on 3D-CRT by modifying the intensity of the radiation within each of the radiation beams. This allows more precise adjustment of radiation doses to the tissues within the target area.
    • Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy) – Internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, involves using radioactive sources placed next to or into the vagina, uterus and/or surrounding tissues to kill the cancer cells. Low-dose-rate brachytherapy is delivered in the hospital over the course of 48 to 72 hours. High-dose-rate brachytherapy typically takes a few hours as an outpatient. Depending of the type of cancer you have, you may need to have several sessions of brachytherapy to treat your cancer.
    • Hyperthermia – The experts at Orange County CyberKnife are worldwide leaders in the area of hyperthermia. Non-invasive hyperthermia treatment focuses on exposing tumors to extremely high temperatures to stimulate blood flow, increase oxygenation and make the tumor cells more responsive to radiation.

Contact Your Radiation Experts For More Information

If you’ve been diagnosed with any type of gynecological cancer, we encourage you to contact our oncology experts. The doctors and staff at Orange County CyberKnife are experienced in treating all types of gynecological cancers in a trusting and comfortable setting. Find out your many radiation cancer treatment options at Orange County CyberKnife and Radiation Center. Call (714) 962-7100 today, or reach out to us using our convenient online appointment form and we will schedule your first phone consultation absolutely free.

Gynecologic Cancer: FAQs

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An obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs.

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Any woman who has been diagnosed with or is suspected to have a gynecologic cancer.

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Cervical dysplasia is a pre­cancerous condition of the cervix. Similar terms include carcinoma in situ and squamous intraepithelial lesion, or SIL. Glandular cells from the cervix can also be dysplastic, ranging in severity from atypical glandular cells, or AEC to adenocarcinoma in situ, or ACIS.

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Because pre­cancerous lesions rarely cause symptoms, timely diagnosis of cervical dysplasia depends on regularly having a Pap smear. In general, sexually active young women should have a Pap smear once a year. If a Pap smear is abnormal, the physician will perform further tests.

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Since mild dysplasia can spontaneously disappear, in some cases women can safely choose surveillance, as long as the site is frequently examined by a physician; however, treatment options should be discussed.

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Testing positive for certain HPV virus types is the largest risk factor for developing cervical cancer. Multiple sexual partners in your lifetime (more than five), intercourse at an early age and smoking are also contributors.

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Many times there are no symptoms. A Pap smear that is abnormal is usually the first sign of possible cancer. Some women may have persistent bleeding after intercourse, irregular menstrual spotting or possibly post­menopausal bleeding.

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A Pap smear is usually done first. If it is abnormal, another test called a colposcopy is usually done. A biopsy (a procedure in which a small amount of tissue is taken from the cervix) is needed for the pathologist to make a microscopic diagnosis.

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If a woman has cervical cancer, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be needed to fight the cancer. The best treatment for an individual woman will vary, depending on her health history, the stage of the disease and issues related to childbearing. Several treatment techniques are available. The lesion frequently can be easily targeted with a surgical instrument called a colposcope. Also, the abnormal tissue can be removed with a specialized electrode or vaporized with a laser, depending on the situation. Treatment can be customized after discussion with your surgeon.

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LEEP is the abbreviation for loop electrosurgical excision procedure. It is one of the most common techniques used for the treatment of cervical dysplasia.

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For some women, a deeper, cone­shaped piece of tissue must be removed from the cervix in order to make a correct diagnosis or to treat cervical cancer. Research done by Women’s Cancer Care of Seattle shows that early cervical cancer can be treated with this surgical technique, while preserving fertility.

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Risk factors include obesity, nulliparity (never having been pregnant), diabetes, Tamoxifen use, taking estrogen replacement without progesterone, anovulation (menstrual cycles without ovulation) and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women with these factors have been exposed to either excessive levels of estrogen exposure or to unopposed estrogen.

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Many women have post­menopausal bleeding. Others may have perimenopausal intermenstrual bleeding episodes or have significant changes to their menstrual cycle, usually excessive bleeding. Women with any of these risk factors should be especially alert to any abnormal bleeding.

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A thin straw is inserted into the uterus to obtain a small amount of tissue for diagnosis. This is called an endometrial biopsy, and is most often done in a doctor’s office. Sometimes more tissue is needed for diagnosis, and a dilatation and curettage is performed under anesthesia.

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Most often, surgery is recommended to remove the uterus, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Sometimes, lymph nodes are removed at the time of the surgery. In addition, radiation, chemotherapy and possibly hormone treatment may be utilized.

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All women are at risk for ovarian cancer. Women with first degree relatives with ovarian cancer, a family history of breast cancer, and women with Lynch II syndrome are at a higher risk for developing the disease, especially after menopause.

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Recent studies show that many women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer complain of such symptoms as bloating, increased abdominal size and urinary symptoms. Because these are such vague symptoms, diagnosis can be difficult. Women with a new onset of these symptoms need a pelvic exam and possibly an imaging study if the condition does not improve after a few weeks with conservative treatment.

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As there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, unlike the Pap smear for cervical cancer, diagnosis of ovarian cancer requires surgery and the removal of the suspicious mass. The extent of the surgery — including whether fertility can be preserved — is best decided in conference with a gynecologic oncologist.

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Surgery is always required, often followed by chemotherapy. Research into the best way to administer chemotherapy is rapidly evolving, so devising the best course of treatment is done in consultation with a gynecologic oncologist.

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The most likely association is a history of HPV (human papilloma virus), usually in the form of genital warts. There is also probably an association with multiple sex partners and smoking, especially in women under 65 years old. Elderly women may develop vulvar cancer after years of chronic vulvar irritation. Embarrassment about seeking care for these irritations can lead to the development of an otherwise preventable cancer.

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Most women develop a mass or a non­healing sore in their genitalia, the most common site being their labia majora. Many times they experience chronic itching and eventual pain. Any abnormal discharge or bleeding from the genital area can also be a sign of vulvar cancer.

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A biopsy (tissue sample) should be taken from the area of concern and sent to a pathologist for microscopic examination.

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A colposcopy should be performed of the external and internal genitalia, to identify all areas involved in either pre­cancerous changes or invasive cancer. Smaller cancers are then surgically removed, along with the lymph nodes in the groin. Larger cancers require treatment with radiation and chemotherapy.

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The most likely association is a history of HPV (human papilloma virus), usually in the form of genital warts. There is also probably an association with multiple sex partners and smoking, especially in women under 65 years old. The most important risk factor is a previous diagnosis with cervical dysplasia or cancer. Doctors caring for women with a history of cervical dysplasia or cancer need to obtain regular Pap smears from the vaginal canal.

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These are pre­cancerous conditions of the vulva or vagina. Similar terms include carcinoma in situ and vaginal or vulvar intraepithelial neoplasm, often abbreviated as VAIN or VIN.

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Most vaginal dysplasias are detected by Pap smears, followed by a colposcopy and selected biopsies ­ the removal of small pieces of tissue which are examined microscopically. The diagnosis of vulvar dysplasia depends primarily on biopsies, after a woman has reported non­healing sores, wart­like growths, persistent itching or other problems to her physician.