Gynaecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five gynaecologic cancers begin in different places within a woman’s pelvis, which is the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. Each gynaecologic cancer is unique, with different signs and symptoms, different risk factors, and different prevention strategies. All women are at risk for gynaecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. When gynaecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.
Five main types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulval. As a group, they are referred to as gynaecologic cancer. (A sixth type of gynaecologic cancer is the very rare fallopian tube cancer.)
Cervical cancer is caused by several types of a virus called human papillomaviruses (HPV). HPV spreads through sexual contact. Most women’s bodies are able to fight this infection. But sometimes the virus leads to cancer. You’re at higher risk of cervical cancer if you smoke, have many children, have many sex partners, use birth control pills for a long time, or have HIV infection.
Endometrial cancer: Although the exact cause of endometrial cancer is unknown, increased levels of estrogen appear to have a role. Estrogen helps stimulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus.
Ovarian cancer: This cancer usually occurs in women over age 50 but can affect younger women. It causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the developed world. Its cause is unknown.