Prevent and Recognize Gynecologic Cancers

Gynecologic cancers will affect more than 83,000 women this year. About 28,000 will die, many because they didn't recognize the symptoms until the cancer was at an advanced stage. There are five main types of reproductive system cancer, each with its own symptoms and suggestions for prevention.

The good news is that regular gynecologic screenings can find cancer early enough for treatment. Even better is that some cancers can be prevented altogether with simple vaccines and lifestyle changes. Get your Passport to Health by mapping out your plan with the help of our tour guides.

The five gynecologic cancers are:


  • Most common gynecologic cancer
  • Some types can be prevented by HPV vaccine
  • Regular pap tests aid in early detection


  • Symptoms may be vague
  • Fifth most common cancer in women
  • Pregnancy, breastfeeding and birth control may lower risk


  • Also called endometrial cancer
  • Usually occurs after menopause
  • Abnormal bleeding is a common symptom


  • Not a common cancer
  • HPV increases risk
  • High survival rates


  • Usually appears as a lesion
  • Most are a type of skin cancer
  • Regular gynecologic exams aid in early detection

Your Passport to Health starts with:
Regular gynecologic exams

  • Annually for low-risk patients, twice a year for high-risk

Annual pap tests

  • Catches the most common cancers very early

Getting an HPV vaccine

  • Everyone between the ages of 11 and 26

An HPV DNA test

  • Females over age 30

Knowing your family history

  • A family history of gynecologic cancer increases risk

Using oral contraceptives

  • Suppressing ovulation decreases risk

Practicing safe sex

  • Protects you from STDs and HPV

Knowing what is "normal" for you

  • Many symptoms are vague and can come and go

Choosing a healthy lifestyle, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Drinking in moderation
  • Eating a healthy diet that limits saturated and trans fats
  • Getting regular exercise

Symptoms of gynecologic cancer:

Check any of the symptoms you may be experiencing and share with your doctor.

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge (cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal)
  • Pelvic pain or pressure (ovarian, uterine, vulvar)
  • Abdominal or back pain (ovarian)
  • Bloating (ovarian)
  • Loss of appetite; quickly feeling full (ovarian)
  • Changes in bladder or bowel habits (cervical)
  • Increased urination (cervical)
  • Painful urination (vulvar, uterine)
  • Itching or burning of the vulva (vulvar)
  • Changes in vulva color (vulvar)
  • Skin, sore or rash on vulva (vulvar)
  • Bleeding after intercourse (cervical)
  • Pain during intercourse (uterine)
  • Heavy periods (cervical)
  • Persistent tiredness or loss of energy (ovarian)
  • Lump or growth in the vulvar area (vulvar)

Many of these symptoms have other, more benign causes. Regular gynecologic exams can rule out more serious issues.

  • A healthy lifestyle, screening tests and annual exams can help reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus(HPV) infections are the cause of most cervical cancers. Here are some facts:
  • HPV has been linked to cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal and penile cancers
  • The HPV vaccine can prevent about 70 percent of cervical cancers
  • Males and females should be vaccinated against HPV infection
  • The vaccine is most effective when given to boys and girls at 11 or 12 years of age
  • Teen girls and young women can and should be vaccinated through age 26
  • Teen boys and young men can and should be vaccinated through age 21 > The HPV vaccine may prevent up to 15,000 HPV-associated cancers a year in women

Neil Rosenshein, M.D., gynecologic oncologist, is a recognized expert in diagnosing and treating cancers of the reproductive tract. As medical director of Meritus Gynecologic Oncology Center, Dr. Rosenshein has performed thousands of gynecologic oncology surgeries in his 40-plus-year career.

“I encourage women to be vigilant about annual well exams and screenings and see their doctor if they experience bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain or feeling full quickly,” says Dr. Rosenshein. “If something just doesn’t feel right, you should see a gynecologist right away.”

For more information about Meritus Gynecologic Oncology Center, call 301-665-4640.