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Gynaecological cancer – all you need to know

Dr Petra Simic
Medical Director, Health Clinics at Bupa UK
26 January 2022
Next review due January 2025

Gynaecological cancers are cancers that start in the cervix, ovaries, womb, vagina or vulva. Together, they affect thousands of people every year. But you might be wondering who gets these cancers and what you should look out for. Here I answer some common questions about gynaecological cancers.

Who can get gynaecological cancers?

Anyone who has a cervix, womb, vagina, vulva or ovaries can get these cancers. Your risk for most of these cancers increases as you get older and after the menopause. This is when your periods stop. This means it’s more important than ever to be aware of the signs later in life.

What is the most common gynaecological cancer?

Cancer of the womb (also known as uterine cancer) is the most common gynaecological cancer, with nearly 10,000 people diagnosed every year. This is followed by ovarian cancer, which is diagnosed in around 7,000 people every year. Both of these types of cancer are more common in older people, with the highest rates in people in their 70s.

Cervical cancer is the one gynaecological cancer that’s more common in younger people. This is diagnosed in around 3,000 people every year. Vaginal and vulval cancers are the least common of the gynaecological cancers.

What are the symptoms of gynaecological cancer?

The symptoms of gynaecological cancers will depend on what type of cancer it is. But there are certain symptoms common to many gynaecological cancers you should look out for, including:

  • abnormal bleeding from your vagina, such as bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause
  • new vaginal discharge, particularly if you have gone or are going through the menopause
  • pain during sex

 

Other symptoms are more specific to certain gynaecological cancers, including:

  • a lump, pain, soreness or persistent itching around your vulva or vagina – these are symptoms of vulval or vaginal cancers
  • persistent bloating or pain in your abdomen – this can be a symptom of ovarian cancer

 

Always see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms – it’s important not to ignore them. There are other, less serious problems that can cause these symptoms too. But if it is cancer, the sooner it’s diagnosed, the easier and more successful your treatment is likely to be.

Is gynaecological cancer curable?

There are many good treatments available for gynaecological cancers. These may include:

 

But it’s important to know that health professionals don’t often use the word ‘cure’ when it comes to cancer. This is because it can be hard to tell for sure whether a cancer has completely gone after treatment. Instead, they may talk about how many people survive their cancer after one, five or 10 years. As time goes on, you become less likely to get a recurrence (where your cancer comes back).

How successful your treatment is will depend on several factors, including the type of cancer and how advanced it is when it’s diagnosed. Your doctor will go through your treatment options with you. This will be very individual to you.

How can I reduce my risk of gynaecological cancer?

There are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of gynaecological cancers.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Keeping active.
  • Stopping smoking.

 

It’s also important to take part in cervical screening for cervical cancer.

We can’t completely prevent any cancer. But being aware of the signs to look out for, and seeking help when you need to, means you can catch it early. And this improves your chance of a better outcome.


Nobody likes to think about being diagnosed with cancer. But our health insurance gives you personal cancer care with support at every stage of your treatment for as long as you have a policy with us. Learn more about our health insurance.

Dr Petra Simic
Dr Petra Simić
Medical Director, Health Clinics at Bupa UK

    • Gynaecological cancers - recognition and referral. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised February 2021
    • Gynaecological cancers. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. www.rcog.org.uk, accessed 18 January 2022
    • Gynaecological cancers. Royal College of Nursing. www.rcn.org.uk, last updated 20 December 2021
    • Cancer incidence for common cancers. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, last reviewed 5 March 2020
    • Ovarian cancer incidence statistics. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, last reviewed 4 October 2021
    • Uterine cancer incidence statistics. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, last reviewed 4 October 2021
    • Cervical cancer incidence statistics. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, accessed 18 January 2022
    • Why some cancers come back. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, last reviewed 6 July 2020

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