Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Uterine Cancer Awareness Month Gynecological GYN Cancer

Gynecological cancers encompass all cancers of the female reproductive system, including the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, and vagina. All women are at risk for these cancers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States, approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecological cancers. Each gynecological cancer has different signs and symptoms, as well as different risk factors. Risk increases with age. 

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.

The major categories of gynecological cancers are: 

Cervical Cancer
Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have tests to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer. 

Ovarian Cancer
There are three types of ovarian cancer in adults, including ovarian epithelial cancer, which begins in the tissue covering the ovary, lining of the fallopian tube, or the peritoneum; ovarian germ cell tumors, which start in the egg or germ cells; and ovarian low malignant potential tumors, which begin in the tissue covering the ovary. 

Uterine Cancer
Uterine cancer forms in the tissues of the uterus, the organ in which a fetus develops. The two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. 

Endometrial cancer forms in the tissues of the endometrium – the lining of the uterus. Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes may increase the risk of endometrial cancer.     

Uterine Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the uterine muscles or in tissues that support the uterus. Exposure to X-rays during radiation therapy can increase the risk of uterine sarcoma. 

Treatment with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen is a risk factor for both types of uterine cancer.

Vaginal Cancer
There are two main types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. A rare type of adenocarcinoma is linked to being exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth.

Adenocarcinomas not linked with being exposed to DES are most common in women after menopause.

Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer forms in a woman’s external genitalia. Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. 

Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is important to get treatment.

Risk factors for vulvar cancer include having VIN, HPV infection, and having a history of genital warts.

What is the AACR Doing in This Area?

In September 2022, the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer and the American Association for Cancer Research are presenting the Virtual Ovarian Cancer Research Series. The goal of the Seminar Series is to bring together clinicians and researchers from across many disciplines and institutions worldwide to share ideas and advance the field of ovarian cancer research. 

In October 2023, the AACR will present the AACR Special Conference: Ovarian Cancer in Boston, Massachusetts. The AACR is committed to supporting the ovarian cancer workforce and ovarian cancer patients. This meeting will mark the AACR’s sixth Biennial Special Conference on Ovarian Cancer.

The AACR has recently awarded research grants to investigators pursuing promising research related to gynecologic cancers. 

In 2022, Ksenija Nesic, PhD, of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia and Anna Salvioni, PharmD, PhD, University Cancer Institute Toulouse Oncopole (IUCT Oncopole) in France were awarded AACR-AstraZeneca Ovarian Cancer Research Fellowships.

In 2022, Sung-Min Hwang, PhD of Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York was awarded an AACR-Bristol Myers Squibb Immuno-oncology Research Fellowship.

In 2022, Roberto Vargas, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio was awarded an AACR Career Development Award to Further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Clinical Cancer Research.