Posted on November 02, 2017

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, gynecologic cancers account for 19 percent of the 5.1 million estimated new cancer cases diagnosed each year.

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. There are five main types of gynecologic cancer: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar, with uterine and ovarian being the most common. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women and often goes undetected until it has spread to the pelvis and abdomen.

Dr. Afaf Al Ansari, Senior Consultant Obstetrics/Gynecology at the Women’s Hospital and Clinical Lead for Gynecological Oncology Multidisciplinary team said: “There is no way to know for sure if a woman will develop a gynecologic cancer. This is why it is important to pay attention to one’s body and to know what is normal so that the warning signs will be more apparent. Each gynecologic cancer has different symptoms.” Dr. Al Ansari added that all women are at risk of gynecologic cancers. “A woman’s risk increases if there is a family history of cancer, if she is obese, if she has reached menopausal age or has the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, women can lower their risk if they know the signs and symptoms and get tested or vaccinated early. When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment can be very effective,” she points out.

While having one or more risk factor does place a woman at an increased risk of developing a gynecologic cancer, many women with risk factors may not develop the disease, while others may develop gynecological cancer despite having no known risk factors. However, Dr. Al Ansari stresses the importance of knowing the risk factors and taking whatever measures possible to reduce one’s risk. “Obesity causes increased estrogen production and chronic inflammation, leading to a greater risk of gynecologic cancer. This particularly applies to endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) which is the most common gynecologic cancer in Qatar,” she states.

She emphasizes that vaginal bleeding is a symptom common to most gynecologic cancers and that pelvic pain or pressure can signal the onset of ovarian or uterine cancers. A more frequent or urgent need to urinate is common with vaginal and ovarian cancers and loss of appetite or feeling full, bloating, and abdominal or back pain can also be associated with ovarian cancer. Dr. Al Ansari notes that screening tests such as a pap smear and HPV test are recommended for the early detection of cervical cancers. Women are advised to speak to their doctor regarding screening and any woman experiencing signs and symptoms of a gynecologic-related condition is advised to refer to their primary health physician for medical advice.