Understanding Gynecological Cancer Risk and Prevention

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Did you know approximately 100,000 women will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer this year? That’s one case every seven minutes! These types of malignancies originate in the female reproductive organs, most commonly the cervix, endometrium or ovaries.

Did you also know that almost half of them are preventable? Prevention is better than a cure!

Cervical cancer: We can eradicate cervical cancer with routine use of the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screenings. It is within our grasp to make cervical cancer, like smallpox, a disease of the past.

  • The HPV vaccine is recommended for both males and females ages 9 to 26.
  • For women 21 to 29 years old, we perform pap smears once every three years. For women aged 30 to 65, we have the option to perform pap screening alone every three years or perform HPV testing along with pap smear screening (called cotesting) every five years.

Endometrial cancer: Almost half of all endometrial cancer cases are related to obesity and lack of physical activity. By improving our diet and adding 30 minutes of exercise every day, we could cut the rates of endometrial cancer in half (and also decrease the rates of postmenopausal breast cancer, colon cancer and other cancer types as well).

  • Postmenopausal bleeding is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer and should be promptly evaluated by a gynecologist.

Ovarian cancer: Up to 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases may be hereditary. We can identify women who are at highest risk and carry mutations that vastly increase the risk of ovarian cancer by having them answer a few simple questions about their personal and family history. Once those individuals are identified, we can prevent ovarian cancer with risk-reducing surgeries and/or medications.

  • The most common genetic mutation for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome is BRCA and can be detected by a blood or saliva sample.

To find more information about gynecological cancer or to make an appointment, please visit https://www.ochsner.org/services/gynecologic-oncology.