What are gynecologic cancers?
Gynecologic cancers are the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells originating in the female reproductive organs, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva.
 
What causes gynecologic cancers?
Biomedical research has discovered that some classes of genes, called oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, promote the growth of cancer. You can acquire abnormal function of these genes during life (e.g. through smoking, aging, environmental influences) or you can inherit gene mutations from your parents or grandparents.  In one instance - cervical cancer - cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted virus.
 
Can gynecologic cancers be prevented?
Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the prevention of cancer. Additionally, knowing your family history can increase your chance of early diagnosis and can help you take action towards prevention. Screening and self-examinations conducted regularly can result in the detection of certain types of gynecologic cancers in their earlier stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful and a complete cure a possibility.
 
Who should treat gynecologic cancers?
Gynecologic cancers should be treated by a cancer specialist, specifically a gynecologic oncologist.  A gynecologic oncologist is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist who has an additional three to four years of specialized training in treating gynecologic cancers from an American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology-approved program.  This subspecialty program provides training in the biology and pathology of gynecologic cancers, as well as in all forms of treatment for these diseases, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and experimental treatments.
 
How are gynecologic cancers treated?
Gynecologic cancers are treated by using one or more of the following options: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and experimental treatments.  The choice of therapy depends on the type and stage of the cancer.
 
Who is at risk?
Any woman is at risk for developing a gynecologic cancer.  This year approximately 82,550 women in the United States will be diagnosed with a cancer affecting the reproductive organs.
 
American Cancer Society.  Cancer Facts and Figures, 2004.  Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/stt_0.asp .  Accessed August 10, 2004.