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September 4, 2023

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

ThedaCare Physician Encourages Women to Know the Signs and Receive Recommended Screenings

September is recognized as Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. The month is designed to provide information about different gynecologic cancers, and how they affect women across the globe.

Gynecologic cancers are all cancers of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva. All women are at risk for these cancers. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), uterine cancer is the most prevalent, followed by ovarian and cervical cancer. An estimated 90,000 new cases of gynecological cancers are diagnosed annually.

ThedaCare Cancer Care providers are recognizing the month by providing information about screenings, treatment and prevention of gynecologic cancers. They are also are hopeful new research findings on endometrial (uterine), ovarian and other female reproductive system cancers could help dramatically reduce the number of women impacted by what could be a silent killer.

“With a combination of healthy lifestyle choices, early detection through regular exams and screenings, and vaccination against certain viruses, we hope women can see the prevalence of gynecological cancers decrease,” said Lachin Hajhosseini, M.D., a family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton North. “Additionally, recent research is holding promise for improved survival rates and overall quality of life, especially when it comes to targeted therapies and immunotherapies, which aim to attack cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues.”

What Are the Symptoms?

Dr. Hajhosseini explained there could be a fairly wide-range of symptoms when it comes to the various types of gynecologic cancers. To support and empower women, it’s is important to know and be aware of the symptoms, including:

  • Pelvic pain or pressure that doesn’t go away, and you don’t know why.
  • Feeling too full, too fast, even when you eat just a little.
  • Spotting in between periods.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, like having longer or heavier periods than what’s normal for you, or bleeding after you’ve gone through menopause.

“We want women to know their bodies so they can understand what is normal for them,” she said. “This is important so that women can recognize the potential symptoms of gynecologic cancer. If a woman notices anything unusual, and it persists, we encourage them to call their health care provider to talk through recommendations.”

Helping Prevent Cancer through Screenings

The cause of gynecologic cancers can be attributed, in part, to lifestyle factors and genetic predisposition. Population demographics, access to health care, and public health initiatives play a significant role as well.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is a good place to start in reducing your risk of gynecological cancers, including practicing safe sex and reducing the number of sexual partners. And like most other cancers: Avoid smoking, limit alcohol consumption, and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Regular gynecological check-ups are critical in the early detection of gynecological cancers. They usually involve screenings as well as vaccination against certain viruses. They also should include a discussion with your healthcare provider about your family history of cancer.

Several hereditary conditions can also raise a person’s chance of developing cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of the most common are hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome. If a woman has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, they should talk to their provider about ways to potentially reduce their risk.

“Early detection plays a pivotal role in the successful management of gynecological cancers,” Dr. Hajhosseini emphasized. “Women should not shy away from discussing their concerns with health care professionals and should follow recommended screening guidelines to safeguard their health.”

Here are some important preventive measures for the different types of gynecological cancers.

  • Endometrial Cancer: Oral contraceptives, regular exercise, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have shown to reduce the risk of this cancer.
  • Ovarian Cancer: Long-term use ofbirth control pills, multiple pregnancies and breastfeeding, and tubal ligation or hysterectomy (for women past their childbearing years) all have been associated with a reduced risk. Transvaginal ultrasound can be used for early detection and genetic testing is useful for women with a family history, looking for inherited mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • Cervical Cancer: Prevention measures include getting the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and regular pap smears, helping to detect abnormal changes in the cervix early.
  • Vulvar Cancer: Regular pelvic exams can help detect any abnormalities early, and the HPV vaccination can also help in prevention.

“Through increased awareness, education, and access to medical resources, we can collectively strive to reduce gynecological cancers,” said Dr. Hajhosseini. “Our goal is that women feel empowered to have open conversations with their providers and feel confident is taking charge of their health.”

For more information on about screenings and available options for care, please click here.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.