Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the top of the vagina. Cervical cancers are typically caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV initially causes abnormal cells to form in the cervix called dysplasia. If dysplasia is left untreated, it can progress to cancer which can then spread to other parts of your body. Cervical cancer is detected in its earliest stages by the pap smear and high risk HPV testing. This is a screening test that you undergo at your gynecologist’s office.

The most common type of cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Other types include adenocarcinoma and small cell carcinoma. Symptoms can include bleeding after intercourse, pain, or blood in your urine or stool. Some women do not have symptoms and the diagnosis is made after pap smear/HPV testing or colposcopy (when your doctor looks at your cervix with a microscope). Treatment depends on the stage of cancer but can include surgery and/or chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation.

Vulvar Cancer

These cancers form on the external genital organs. They can be related to the human papilloma virus (HPV) but not always. There are also other skins disorders that can place a woman at high risk for vulvar cancer including lichen sclerosis. Similar to cervical cancer, abnormal cells called dysplasia form first, which if left untreated can progress to cancer. Symptoms include itching or feeling a new persistent “bump” in the area. Diagnosis is made by biopsy.

The most common type of vulvar cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.  Other types of vulvar cancer include vulvar melanoma and Bartholin’s gland carcinomas.  Vulvar cancer is treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy and radiation depending on the stage of the cancer.

Vaginal Cancer

This is a rare gynecologic cancer. Similar to cervical cancer, this can be related to the human papilloma virus (HPV); however there are types unrelated to HPV as well. These are sometimes detected by pap smear and high risk HPV testing but can also be seen during a pelvic exam. Diagnosis is made by biopsy. Treatment depends on the location and size of the lesion.