Types of Cancers - Women's Excellence

Cervical Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later.

When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent HPV infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.

Who Gets Cervical Cancer?

All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.

Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the ovaries, it is called ovarian cancer. Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs.

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. But when ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective. Ovarian cancer often causes signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional.

Who Gets Ovarian Cancer?

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women. About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older.

Each year, approximately 20,000 women in the United States get ovarian cancer. Among women in the United States, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer death, after lung and bronchus, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective.

Uterine Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the uterus, it is called uterine cancer. The uterus is the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis (the area below your stomach and in between your hip bones). The uterus, also called the womb, is where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant. The most common type of uterine cancer is also called endometrial cancer because it forms in the lining of your uterus, called the endometrium. When uterine cancer is found early, treatment is most effective.

Who Gets Uterine Cancer?

All women are at risk for uterine cancer, but the risk increases with age. Most uterine cancers are found in women who are going through or who have gone through menopause—the time of life when your menstrual periods stop.

Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the United States and the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer.

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the vagina, it is called vaginal cancer. The vagina, also called the birth canal, is the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body.

When cancer starts in the vulva, it is called vulvar cancer. The vulva is the outer part of the female genital organs. It has two folds of skin, called the labia. Vulvar cancer most often occurs on the inner edges of the labia. When vaginal and vulvar cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.

Who Gets Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers?

Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. While all women are at risk for these cancers, very few will get them. Together, they account for 6%–7% of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

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