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by Julie Dohr, MD

FibroidThe three most common gynecologic cancers are ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and cervical cancer. The rarer cancers are vulvar and vaginal cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in females. This cancer is almost always caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is very prevalent – 75% of people who are sexually active have been exposed to HPV. That is why there is a vaccine!

The lucky part about this cancer is that there is a precancer that preceeds it, and it can be picked up by a pap smear. Therefore, you can get rid of the pre-cancerous cells before they ever turn into cancer.

This cancer is usually not genetic in nature.

This cancer does not cause symptoms in the early stages, so get your screening pap smear. If it is not caught until the late stages, it can be deadly

Uterine cancer - also known as Endometrial cancer. This is the most common gynecologic cancer. Most of the time Endometrial cancer is caught in the early stages because it causes irregular bleeding. The survival rate is high if caught early.

This cancer also has a “pre-cancer” that can be diagosed and treated before it turns into invasive cancer.

This cancer can be genetic in nature and is part of the Lynch Syndrome, a genetic mutation that increases your risk for uterine and colon cancer. Other risk factors include obesity and diabetes.

Ovarian cancer – this is the second most common female cancer and more women die of Ovarian cancer than cervical and uterine cancer combined. It is most commonly detected in advanced stages – stage III or IV – and the cure rate is low.

There is no “precancer” and no screening test for ovarian cancer, which is why it is not caught early. Symptoms are vague, like bloating and urinary frequency.

This cancer can be genetic in nature, so if you have relatives with ovarian or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about genetic testing.