Early Gynaecological Cancers

Our Gynaecologists deal with a number of benign (non cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) conditions affecting the female reproductive system. These can include growths on or near:

  • The cervix
  • The uterus
  • The tubes and ovaries
  • The vagina and vulva

Cervix:

Abnormalities of the cervix are often picked up quite early on and ideally before they become cancers by regular pap smears. These problems can then be easily treated by a simple procedure known as a large loop excision of the cervix (LLETZ). Here the affected cervical tissue is removed using electrical current (diathermy). If the disease has progressed to early stage cancer, a hysterectomy may be advised. Laparoscopy has become very useful in performing this procedure with less pain, less scarring and faster recovery.

Uterus:

Heavy or abnormal menstrual bleeding can be a symptom of cancer of the uterus or womb in its early stages.

It should be noted that any vaginal bleeding in a woman after the menopause should be promptly brought to medical attention.

An ultrasound will usually alert your doctor to a problem with the lining of the uterus (endometrium). If growths are found a hysteroscopy is usually recommended. This is a very quick and reasonably painless procedure, which involves a small camera, inserted into the cavity of the uterus to see if any problems can be seen and then if problems are found, they can be removed immediately. The method where Surgeons remove the abnormal tissue is called curettage. Here a curette is used to scrape or scoop the mass off the lining of the uterus to ensure all unhealthy tissue is removed.

Depending on the results of the hysteroscopy, further treatment may be advised. Precancerous conditions can be managed with hormonal treatment or, if it is appropriate to the patient, a hysterectomy. Similarly, some very early cancers can also be managed in these ways.

Ovaries and tubes:

The position of the ovaries and tubes inside the abdomen pose the greatest diagnostic challenge for Gynaecologists and doctors. For this reason cancers of these areas often progress to late stages before they come to notice. In some case, cancers of the ovaries or tubes are picked up in their early stages by accident due to an ultrasound or examination for another reason. Otherwise, they may cause abdominal bloating, weight gain for no apparent reason or a change in bowel or bladder function.

Ovarian cysts:

If such growths are not found to be cancerous they are considered ovarian cysts or tumours. These can be investigated through a laparoscopy and usually easily removed without the need for a laparotomy (open) incision. After the menopause, any ovarian cyst is considered dangerous until proven otherwise. For more information please read the Ovarian Cysts and Tumours page.

What do I do now?

Every woman is individual and her situation requires an individual plan of management. If these issues worry you or you have a positive family history of these conditions, call us at SWEC on 1300 498 448 to arrange a personal consultation and discussion of your case.