While the medical community has well-established screening tests and guidelines for breast cancer (mammograms),colorectal cancer (colonoscopies), and other types of cancer, there currently are not many screening recommendations for most gynecologic cancers.
Gynecologic cancer includes:
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Fallopian tube cancer
- Primary peritoneal cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Vulvar cancer
Gynecologic cancer screening guidelines
Today, cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer for which there is a screening exam (HPV testing and Pap testing, also called a Pap smear). At Sarah Cannon, we recommend the following guidelines:
- Age 21 to 29: Pap test every three years
- Age 30 to 65: Pap test and HPV test every five years
- Age 65+: Women with normal history should stop testing
Women with an abnormal diagnosis should be tested for 20 years following the result, even if testing continues past age 65. A woman whose uterus and cervix have been removed for non-cervical cancer reasons, and who has no history of cervical or pre-cervical cancer, should not be tested.
Gynecologic cancer symptoms
Since there aren’t screening options for most gynecologic cancers, it’s essential to listen to your body and seek medical care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge (particularly vaginal bleeding after menopause)
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal or back pain
- Burning, itching, tenderness, or pain of the vulva
- Difficulty eating
- Feeling full very quickly while eating
- Frequent need to urinate
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Skin changes on the vulva, such as warts, a rash, sores, or discoloration
See your doctor immediately if you have vaginal bleeding that’s unusual for you. If you have any of the other symptoms for two weeks or more and they aren’t normal for you, seek medical care. These symptoms aren’t always a sign of cancer and could be related to another condition. It’s always best to talk to your doctor to rule out a more serious diagnosis.
Learn more about gynecologic cancer treatment at Sarah Cannon.
It is important to know that the information in this post, including Sarah Cannon’s recommendations for screening, is accurate as of the publishing date.