What Causes Gynecologic Cancer?
The causes of gynecologic cancers can vary widely. This is generally because cancer can affect different parts of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, cervix, ovaries, vagina and vulva.
However, there are some overarching causes and risk factors for gynecologic cancers that all women should be aware of:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – The HPV virus is transmitted sexually and is commonly linked to cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Practicing safe sex techniques can help prevent the transmission of HPV, and routine Pap smears and well-woman examinations can help detect the condition early.
- Age – Women who are 50 years or older are at a higher risk of developing gynecologic cancers.
- Genetics – Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (among several others) increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. Additionally, a family history of ovarian, fallopian tube, primary peritoneal, breast and even colon cancers also puts a woman at a higher risk for ovarian cancer.
- In utero exposure to synthetic estrogen – Known as diethylstilbestrol, synthetic estrogen was prescribed to pregnant women between the late 1930s and early 1970s before it was known to be unsafe. Exposure to diethylstilbestrol in utero caused some women to have reproductive tract anomalies and has been linked to some gynecologic cancers.
In addition, other risk factors include smoking, obesity, a weakened immune system, diabetes, history of sexual activity and long-term use of oral contraceptives, among others.
Complex Cases Call for Comprehensive Treatments
These various causes of gynecologic cancers can lead to the development of complex cases, which require innovative and advanced therapies to treat. At TGH, our focus is on providing comprehensive patient care to ensure the best outcomes. Our partnership with the University of South Florida brings world-class surgeons to TGH with experience treating the most challenging cases, such as pediatric and pregnant patients, who are often dealing with unique circumstances.
Additionally, our program is the only one in Florida to offer palliative medicine to patients, along with genetic counseling and detailed coordination of care. We develop tailored treatment plans that can be carried out by local oncologists, radiologists and other physicians near a patient’s home and by the oncology team at TGH.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer or need a second opinion, please contact the TGH Cancer Insitute at (813) 844-2200 to schedule an appointment. Appointments are available Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.