Gynecologic cancers are the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a woman’s reproductive organs, and include cancers of the uterus, cervix, ovary, vagina, fallopian tubes, and vulva. Often cancer cells will form a lump or tumor. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors do not spread into nearby tissue, lymph nodes, or blood systems. Malignant tumors may grow into nearby tissue or spread throughout your body.
At the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute, we treat all types of reproductive cancers. In fact, UMMC was a charter member of the Gynecologic Oncology Group, the organization that has set the standard of care for most gynecologic cancers.
The UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute gynecologic care team includes gynecologic oncologists, medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, genetic counselors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, dietitians, and others.
The team has experience with many unusual and complex cases and sees patients with advanced cancers and other complex medical problems. Team members meet regularly as a group to review imaging, pathology, and other matters unique to each patient. Together, they consider and discuss a patient's type of cancer, how advanced it is, and other conditions or personal matters that may impact treatment recommendations. Members follow National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines in developing treatment plans.
Doctors recommend most women begin most annual gynecologic screenings around age 21. The screenings are typically done during an annual wellness visit to a gynecologist or primary care physician. UMMC provides screenings for cervical and endometrial cancers at our Women’s Care locations at Jackson Medical Mall, Grants Ferry, and Women’s Specialty Care at Mirror Lake.
UMMC offers the leading-edge technology and treatment for gynecologic cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and clinical trials, when appropriate.
Before treatment begins, the team determines the type of gynecologic cancer, the stage it is in, and how far it has progressed. If a tumor is found, doctors will determine its grade, or how abnormal the cells look, and how many are dividing.
If the cancer has moved beyond the location in the body where it began, doctors say it has metastasized. Staging indicates how far a cancer has spread. Our physicians use a standardized staging method developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC).
Definitions provided by the website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov).
Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
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Cancer that forms in the tissue lining the fallopian tube (one of two long, slender tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus). The cancer sometimes begins at the end of the fallopian tube near the ovary and spreads to the ovary. Fallopian tube cancer is similar to ovarian epithelial cancer and is staged and treated the same way.
Cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial cancers (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells). Fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer are similar to ovarian epithelial cancer and are staged and treated the same way.
Cancer that forms in tissues of the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops). Two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer (cancer that begins in cells lining the uterus) and uterine sarcoma (a rare cancer that begins in muscle or other tissues in the uterus).
Cancer that forms in the tissues of the vagina (birth canal). The vagina leads from the cervix (the opening of the uterus) to the outside of the body. The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. Another type of vaginal cancer is adenocarcinoma, cancer that begins in glandular cells in the lining of the vagina.
Cancer of the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina).