Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

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Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Diagram of the female genital tract depicting fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month! Gynecologic cancers start in a woman's reproductive organs. The five main types are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. Each gynecologic cancer is unique, with different signs, symptoms, risk factors (things that may increase your chance of getting a disease), and prevention strategies.

Symptoms

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. There is no simple and reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancer except cervical cancer. That's why it is important to pay attention to your body and know what's normal for you, so you can recognize the warning signs. If you notice any unexplained signs or symptoms that last for two weeks or longer, talk to your doctor.

Prevention

HPV Vaccine

Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. Vaccines protect against the HPV types that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys.

If you can't afford to get your child vaccinated, CDC's Vaccines for Children program may be able to help.

Pap and HPV Tests

The Pap test can find cervical cancer early, when treatment works best. The Pap test also helps prevent cervical cancer by finding precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. Women should start getting the Pap test at age 21. The Pap test only checks for cervical cancer. It does not check for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers.

The HPV test looks for HPV infection. It may be used to screen women who are 30 years old or older, or for women of any age who have unclear Pap test results. Learn more about the Pap and HPV tests.

If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost Pap test through CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Find out if you qualify.

More Information

Survivor Story

"I began having heavy bleeding and I went to a nearby medical clinic. The doctors there found that I had something suspicious on my uterus. They referred me to a gynecologist who did a biopsy, which revealed I had cancer.

"I had radiation and chemotherapy. Afterward, I had a total hysterectomy and my ovaries were removed. I'm now cancer-free.

"Today, I feel pretty good. I hope that other women will not be in denial about their risk for cancer. I had a family history of cervical and uterine cancers, but I didn't get checked until I had symptoms."

More Survivor Stories

Find free and low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings in your area - National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

Twitter Chat 9/17

CDC experts will answer your questions about gynecologic cancers on Tuesday, September 17 at 1 pm EDT. Use the hashtag #CDCCancerChat.