UAB Medicine

Gynecologic Symptoms and Diagnosis

Gynecological Cancer Symptoms
Because each type of cancer has its own symptoms it is important to be aware of changes in your body. Regular checkups with your doctor are the best way to identify symptoms that may be a sign of cancer, and properly diagnose the disease.

Cervical Cancer

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
    • Bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or after going through menopause
    • Heavier or longer periods
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
     
Uterine/Endometrial Cancer
Unfortunately, often uterine/endometrial cancers reach advanced stages before any signs or symptoms are noticed.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
     

Ovarian Cancer

  • Pressure or pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs
  • Abdomen that is swollen or bloated
  • Nausea, gas, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea
  • Persistent weakness
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary problems including frequent or urgent urination
     

It is important to talk with your physician if you notice any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis of cancer is an important step to treating the disease. Talk to your doctor about tests that are available to diagnose gynecological cancers.

Gynecological Cancer Diagnostic Test
If a screening test result is abnormal, or your physician suspects cancer, diagnostic tests may be conducted to determine if you have cancer. Whether performed by your primary care physician or by an oncologist, cancer diagnostic tests are a vital first step in determining whether cancer is present and the best course of action in treating it.

Cervical Cancer

  • Colposcopy: The doctor examines the cervix with a magnifying lens.
  • Biopsy: Tissue is removed to check for abnormal cells.
  • Endocervical curettage: A small amount of tissue is scraped away from the cervix for examination.
  • Conization: A cone-shaped sample of tissue is removed from the cervix to check for abnormal cells.
     

Uterine/Endometrial Cancer
While there is no approved screening for uterine or endometrial cancer, if you experience abnormal bleeding, report it to your doctor and he or she may perform one of the following:

  • Pap Smear: A regular exam for females over the age of 21 to examine cervical cells.
  • Biopsy: Tissue is removed to check for abnormal cells.
  • Transvaginal Ultrasound: A doctor uses sound waves to produce a picture of uterine tissue.
  • Endometrial biopsy: small amount of endometrium is removed to test for cancer.
     

Ovarian Cancer

  • Blood test: If a mass is present, the doctor will test the blood for high CA-125 levels, a substance found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.
  • Ultrasound: A doctor uses sound waves to produce an image to determine if a mass is solid or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • CT scan: Images show physician whether cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
  • Biopsy: Most commonly done during surgery to remove the ovarian tumor to test for cancer.
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