About Gynecologic Cancers

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PelvicIllustration_lgThe comprehensive global cancer statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicate that gynecologic cancers accounted for 19% of the 5.1 million estimated new cancer cases, 2.9 million cancer deaths and 13 million 5-year prevalent cancer cases among women in the world in 2002.

 

(Recent data from the World Health Organization’s GLOBCAN Project has provided this global data for gynecologic cancer up to 2008.)

Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. Cervical cancer kills an estimated 275,000 women every year and 500,000 new cases are reported worldwide. This preventable disease is the second largest cancer killer of women in low and middle-income countries. Using data from the WHO, United Nations, the World Bank and IARC GLOBCAN Project, the “cervical cancer crisis cards” highlight the inequity women face depending on where they live. These data have highlighted that Africa is the most dangerous place to be a woman with cervical cancer. All ten of the countries with the highest cervical cancer mortality rate can be found in Africa. India, the second most populous country in the world accounts for 27% of the total cervical cancer deaths globally. Vaccine program aimed at prevention and screening programs aimed at treatment of pre-invasive cervical disease are solutions that have been shown to markedly reduce the incidence and mortality associated with cervix cancer.

Uterine Cancer

The uterus is the pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis (the area below your stomach and in between your hip bones). The uterus, also called the womb, is where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant. The most common type of uterine cancer is also called endometrial cancer because it forms in the lining of your uterus, called the endometrium. Sarcomas can also develop in the wall of the uterus. Uterine cancers are the second most common type of gynecologic cancer but are more often treatable particularly in developed countries of the world. Approximately 287,000 new cases of uterine cancer were identified worldwide in 2008.

Ovarian Cancer

Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs. Ovarian cancer is the third most common type of gynecologic cancer and yet is the most lethal in developed countries. Approximately 225,000 new cases of ovarian cancer were identified worldwide in 2008 and over 140,000 died of this disease in that same year.

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers

The vagina, also called the birth canal, is the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body. The vulva is the outer part of the female genital organs. It has two folds of skin, called the labia. Vulvar cancer most often occurs on the inner edges of the labia. These tumors are less frequent and global estimates of incidence and mortality are not available.

Additional information regarding gynecologic cancer as it pertains to screening, prevention and treatment can be found here and here.