Gynaecological cancers include:
Uterine (Womb) - This is the most common gynaecological cancer affecting women in Australia. Most cancers of the uterus are cancers of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). Cancers can also develop in the muscle layers of the uterus.
Cervical - There are two main types of cervical cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma, the most common type, starts in the skin-like cells, which cover the outer surface of the cervix at the top of the vagina.
- Adenocarcinoma, starts in cells called glandular cells, which are in the cervical canal. The cervical canal is a small opening in the cervix that leads into the uterus.
Cervical cancers are often detected as a result of screening programs. Routine examinations and pap smears are recommended as these cancers frequently do not cause signs or symptoms.
Ovarian - This is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries. The most common type is serous papillary carcinoma but other types include endometroid, clear cell and mucinous carcinoma.
Vulva – This cancer begins in cells in the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips and the opening to the vagina).
Vaginal - This is cancer that begins in tissue of the vagina.
The following are some signs that may be indicators of gynaecological cancer. If they persist consultation with your doctor is recommended:
- Unusual bleeding, such as postmenopausal bleeding, bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods
- Pain or pressure in the pelvis
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Change in toilet habits
- Itching, burning or soreness in the immediate area
Treatment for gynaecological cancers depends on a range of factors, including the type of cancer diagnosis and staging, its physical location and overall patient health. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are commonly used for the treatment of these cancers.
External Beam Radiation Therapy for Gynaecological Cancer
External beam radiation therapy for gynaecological cancers is routinely delivered either definitively as an alternative to surgery e.g. for some cervical cancers or after surgery. For certain patients both external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy may be recommended to ensure that the required therapeutic dose is delivered.
Cervical cancer – Precancerous lesions in the cervix are usually treated with surgical procedures that do not involve removal of the uterus. The procedures often used are cryosurgery, laser surgery and conisation.
Early cervical cancers are treated with surgery. This involves removal of the uterus or hysterectomy. In some instances the procedures such as trachelectomy are used, which involves removal of the cervix and upper part of the vagina.
When cancers are larger (stage 1B / 2A), the surgery will involve a radical hysterectomy and removal of lymph nodes. Later stages of cervical cancers involves a combination of external beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy and or brachytherapy.
Uterine cancer – Surgery plays an important role in the treatment of all stages of these cancers and involves a hysterectomy.
Chemotherapy is given depending on the type and stage of cancer.
Radiation therapy may involve treating the pelvic nodes and upper vagina using external beam therapy. Advanced radiation techniques such as Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT, RapidArc) may be used.
Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy) is used to treat early cancers following surgery and depends on the pathological analysis of tissue that is removed during surgery.
External beam radiation therapy services for gynaecological cancer are available at all Genesis CancerCare Queensland centres.
Brachytherapy services are available at:
- Brisbane (Wesley) High dose rate brachytherapy
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