Below is a list of cancers that can develop within the female reproductive system. Gynaecological cancers can occur in women of all ages, but they are most common in women over the age of 50.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers. Even so, in 2017 in WA there were 88 new diagnoses of cervical cancer and 20 deaths recorded. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by long-term infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can cause cervical cell changes, producing the abnormal cells that may develop into cancer.
About 40 types of HPV are known as genital HPV as they affect the anal and genital area. Genital HPV is spread by intimate skin to skin contact during sexual activity, including sexual intercourse.
New Cervical Cancer Screening Test
The National Cervical Screening Program has changed. The Pap smear test was replaced on 1 December 2017 with a new Cervical Screening Test. All women aged 25-74 who have ever had sex should have a Cervical Screening Test every five years. The first Cervical Screening Test is due two years after a women's last Pap test. After that, women will only need to have the test every five years if the results are normal.
Because it is difficult to detect in its early stages, there are more deaths from ovarian cancer than any other gynaecological cancer. In WA in 2017, 115 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 94 died from the disease. A family history of ovarian cancer may increase your risk. Having few or no pregnancies, early age at first period and/or late menopause increases the amount of oestrogen you are exposed to over your lifetime, which can in turn increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
Uterine (womb) cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer, with 268 new cases and 64 deaths in WA in 2017. Having few or no pregancies, early age at first period and/or late menopause increases your lifetime exposure to oestrogen, which may in turn increase your risk of uterine cancer. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and tamoxifen (a drug sometimes used to treat breast cancer) have also been linked to increased risk of developing uterine cancer.
In WA in 2017, 12 women were diagnosed with vaginal cancer and 4 died from the disease. It is not fully known what increases a women's risk of vaginal cancer, but HPV may be linked to the development of some vaginal cancers.
In WA in 2017, 33 women were diagnosed with vulval cancer and 5 died from the disease. It is not fully known what increases a woman's risk of vulval cancer, but HPV may be linked to the development of some vulva cancers. Smoking and having a previous gynaecological cancer can also increase risk.
Gynaecological Awareness Information Network (GAIN)
GAIN is dedicated to supporting women who have been diagnosed with and treated for gynaecological conditions. Their mission is to be a central point to collect, coordinate and disseminate information on the support available for gynaecological issues.