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Methodist Healthcare

Gynecologic cancer

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer beginning in a woman's reproductive organs. The main types of gynecologic cancer are uterine, ovarian, cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

Gynecologic oncology in San Antonio

We know that receiving a cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming, and we strive to provide the leading-edge diagnostic techniques and treatment methods you need.

Methodist Healthcare is the leading provider in San Antonio for diagnosing and treating cancers within the female reproductive system, including ovarian, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, endometrial and uterine cancers. Our gynecologic oncology program maintains the highest standards in the region, offering personalized, compassionate care during your cancer journey.

Our gynecologic oncology program

For more information about our gynecologic cancer services, please call askSARAH at (210) 507-0941.

Our affiliated physicians in gynecologic care offer leading-edge diagnostic techniques and treatment methods for a variety of complex gynecologic cancers. Our specialists encourage women to visit their doctors at least once a year for well-woman exams, especially if you are sexually active. Early detection of gynecologic cancer can enhance your treatment options as well as improve your chances of survival.

Your road to recovery begins with the right diagnosis, delivered by dedicated pathologists, radiologists and gynecologists. After diagnosis, our highly trained treatment team—including board-certified, fellowship-trained gynecologic oncologists and radiation oncologists—works together to provide comprehensive, patient-centered treatment.

Your cancer care team at Methodist Healthcare offers:

  • Minimally invasive techniques, including robotic surgery
  • Support of a gynecologic nurse navigator who will advocate for you and guide you through your cancer journey
  • Enhanced Surgical Recovery (ESR) program focused on helping patients recover sooner following major surgery and helping them be actively involved in their recoveries
  • Genetic counseling and risk assessment
  • Inpatient unit with specially trained nurses
  • Oncology rehabilitation and lymphedema therapy
  • Multidisciplinary tumor conference for personalized treatment planning
  • Quality-based, coordinated cancer care from screening through survivorship

Types of gynecologic cancer

There are several major types of cancer within the female reproductive system, including:

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Without early detection, ovarian cancer often goes unnoticed until it has reached the pelvis and abdomen. At this stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat. When caught early (while the cancer is only within the ovary), it is more likely to be successfully treated.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

When ovarian cancer is in its early stage, it rarely causes any symptoms. Ovarian cancer that has progressed may cause few and non-specific symptoms that can be mistaken for more common conditions.

Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Frequent urination

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that connects the uterus with the vagina. It is the outlet of the uterus through which menstruation flows and babies are delivered. Normally, the cells of the cervix divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing in an unregulated manner, a mass of tissue forms. This mass is called a tumor.

Cervical cancer comes in two major forms:

  • Squamous cell cancer: Arises from the cells on the outermost portion of the cervix that connects with the vagina
  • Adenocarcinoma: Arises from the gland cells that are found in the inner lining of the cervical canal

Cervical cancer screening

Pap smears are largely responsible for the significant decline in deaths from cervical cancer over the past 30 to 40 years. Despite this success, 11,270 women in the U.S. still learn they have cervical cancer each year.

Squamous cancer is more common than adenocarcinoma. Many cases of squamous cancer are associated with infection with a virus (human papillomavirus or HPV), which, in addition to increasing the risk for cervical cancer, causes changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes can be detected by a Pap smear and indicate an increased risk for developing cervical cancer.

A vaccine has recently been developed to protect against infection by some (but not all) of the HPV strains associated with cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer symptoms

Early-stage cervical cancer tends to show no symptoms. However, once the cancer becomes more advanced, patients may experience:

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during intercourse

Uterine or endometrial cancer

Uterine cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the uterus (womb). The uterus is a pear-shaped organ vital to childbearing.

Uterine cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case uterus cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue (tumor) forms.

The walls of the uterus are made up of the endometrium (the inner lining) and the myometrium (the muscular, outer lining). The most common type of cancer of the uterus begins in the endometrium.

Endometrial cancer is the most common female reproductive tract cancer. However, endometrial cancer rarely occurs in women 40 years old and younger. The risk of developing it increases with age.

There are different types of endometrial cancers. All of these tumors involve the glandular cells. The most common type is endometrioid adenocarcinomas. The other types, papillary serous adenocarcinomas and clear cell adenocarcinomas, grow and spread more rapidly than endometrioid adenocarcinomas.

Types of uterine cancers

95 percent of uterine cancers are endometrial cancers. Other, more rare types of uterine cancers include:

  • Stromal sarcomas, which develop in the stroma or connective tissue
  • Carcinosarcomas or malignant mixed mesodermal tumors, which combine characteristics of endometrial cancer and sarcomas
  • Leiomyosarcomas, which begin in the myometrium (muscle wall of the uterus)

Uterine cancer symptoms

Typical uterine cancer symptoms include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge that does not have signs of blood
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain and/or a mass in the pelvic area
  • Unintentional (or unexplained) weight loss

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