As a gynecologic oncology surgeon, I want women to know the facts, be aware of the role they can play, and be able to have access to the best treatment when needed.
Gynecologic Cancers in Nebraska
- Endometrial cancer – This is a type of uterine cancer and is cancer of the lining of the uterus. This is the most common gynecological cancer treated in Nebraska.
- Ovarian and fallopian tube cancers – These are the most lethal gynecological cancers we treat.
- Cervical cancer – This is actually the most common gynecological cancer worldwide, but it’s the third most treated in Nebraska.
- Vulvar cancer – This is a rare skin cancer.
- Vaginal cancer – This cancer is also rare.
What You Should Know about these Gynecologic Cancers
Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer
Prevention: There is no specific prevention for this type of cancer. However, it is seen more frequently in women who are obese and have diabetes or other medical conditions that go along with obesity. This is likely due to prolonged estrogen stimulation from fatty tissue.
Warning signs: Post-menopausal bleeding is the most common warning sign. If you experience any bleeding, even minor spotting or a discharge after menopause, this needs to be evaluated to rule out uterine cancer. When following up on this symptom, about 75% of the time uterine cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage.
Prevention: If you carry the BRCA (BReast CAncer gene) one and two or BRCA genes, you should talk to your doctor about risk-reducing surgery because for certain groups of patients this may be something to seriously consider. It is clear that removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes reduces the risk of ovarian cancer significantly.
Warning signs: Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs. Ovarian cancer grows silently and spreads extensively before it causes much in the way of symptoms. And when symptoms occur, they are very common such as constipation, bloating and pelvic pressure. It’s normal for these symptoms on their own to come and go. But if you experience these symptoms and they persist, and continue to progress – for example, first you have constipation, and then you also have bloating and then you have nausea or vomiting, that is a reason to see your doctor.
Prevention: There is actually a vaccine that is very effective against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. This is an amazing step forward. A recent report shows cervical cancer is declining and this is likely due to the vaccination.
Screenings/Early Detection: A Pap smear or test is a very effective screening test for cervical cancer. While this test doesn’t diagnose cancer, it alerts your doctor to take a closer look. It’s also important to know that the vast majority of women who have an abnormal Pap smear do not have nor do they ever get cervical cancer. Even after the age where Pap smears are recommended, women should continue to have yearly exams with their doctor so that symptoms they may or may not be aware of can be evaluated.
Warning signs: Abnormal bleeding at any time (before or after menopause).
What Can You Do
The 3 most important things women can do are:
- Get your regular Pap screenings for cervical cancer; continue yearly exams after Pap tests are no longer recommended.
- Be aware of warning signs and if you experience them, talk to your doctor – don’t put it off.
- Know your family history.
You know your body and are the best one to be aware, take steps where you can and seek medical advice for early detection.
Dr. Peter Morris
Gynecologic Oncology Surgeon
Dr. Peter Morris is a gynecologic oncology surgeon with Cancer Partners of Nebraska. He is specifically trained in the surgical and medical treatment of gynecologic cancers, which include the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovary, vagina and vulvar area.
This is a very narrow field of specialty with extensive training. After medical school, there is a four-year residency in general obstetrics and gynecology followed by a three-year fellowship in gynecologic oncology.