Of all the various gynecologic cancers, cervical cancer is the only one that, with screening tests can be detected in its early stages, when treatment is most effective. Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancer except cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize the warning signs, and learn what can be done to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.
Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs and symptoms, different risk factors (things that may increase the risk of getting this disease), and different prevention strategies. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancer and the risk factors increase with age.
Reduce the Risk of Cervical Cancer
The HPV Vaccine (human papillomavirus) protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer.
HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given beginning at age 9. The HPV Vaccine is also recommended for everyone up to the age of 26 years, if they have not had the vaccine before. HPV vaccination is not recommended after the age 26 years. However, some adults from 27 to 45 years of age, who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after consulting with their doctor concerning their particular risk factors for new HPV infection and the possible benefits of vaccination.
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or detect it in its early stages: the Pap Smear Test that detects precancer cells which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer, if they are not treated appropriately and the HPV Test to detect the virus that causes these cell changes.
Other factors may also help lower the risk or cervical cancer: don’t smoke; use condoms during sexual intercourse and limit your number of sexual partners.
Reduce the Risk of Ovarian Cancer
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, but several factors are associated with a lower risk of getting ovarian cancer: having used birth control pills for five or more years; having had a tubal ligation (tubes tied), both ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy (a surgical procedure where the uterus, and sometimes the cervix, is removed); having given birth and some studies suggest that women who breastfeed for a year or more may have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
Reduce the Risk of Uterine Cancer
There is no known way to prevent uterine cancer. But the following factors may reduce the risk of getting uterine cancer: using birth control pills; maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active; taking progesterone, if you are taking estrogen.
Reduce the Risk of Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer
Only the HPV Vaccine protects against these two types of cancer.