Learn about the different types of cervical cancer

Updated Oct. 15, 2020

Cancer can be a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s important to do so. You can start by learning about the different forms that reproductive cancer can take. You’ve probably heard of reproductive or gynecologic cancer. What you might not know is there are actually multiple types of gynecologic cancer that affect women’s reproductive organs.

The American Cancer Society expects that more than 110,000 new cases of reproductive cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2018 alone. Knowledge of risk factors, signs, and symptoms can help you identify a possible case of cancer so you can seek screening and treatment.

Despite the statistics, screening and early-detection methods decrease the number of deaths associated with these types of cancers. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital offers many different types of treatment for gynecologic cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

“The goal of medicine and surgery is to transition to as minimally invasive surgery as we can,” says Bart Matson, DO, an OB/GYN for Magee-Womens Specialty Services at UPMC Northwest.

“There are a lot of benefits to minimally invasive surgery, and patients are becoming quite aware of that.”

For more information on reproductive cancer and possible treatments, call 1-866-MY-MAGEE (696-2433).

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Forms of Gynecologic Cancer

There are different forms of gynecologic cancer, each with particular characteristics and treatment options. Experts at the Foundation for Women’s Cancer list seven types of gynecologic cancer:

  • Uterine/endometrial cancer begins when cells grow too rapidly on the lining of the uterus, potentially spreading to other parts like the uterine wall or cavity. The most common kind of uterine cancer is endometrial carcinoma. A less common type is uterine sarcoma. These are usually treated with surgery but radiation and chemotherapy can be used as well.
  • Vulvar cancer develops on the outer parts of a woman’s genitalia, such as the labia Treatment for this kind of cancer depends on the type and stage. Precancerous conditions can even be treated sometimes with topical creams but most often with surgery The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine minimizes the risk of developing vulvar cancer.
  • Cervical cancer occurs when cells inside and outside the cervix mutate. Of all the types of gynecologic cancer, cervical cancer is the most preventable through routine screening. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy.
  • Vaginal cancer is one of the rarest female reproductive cancers. This disease typically originates in the lining of the vagina. Most cases require surgery or chemotherapy. Precancerous lesions of the vagina can regress on their own but can be treated if necessary with surgery. The HPV vaccine may help prevent some vaginal cancers.
  • Ovarian cancer encompasses three subgroups: stromal cell, germ cell, and epithelial cancer. Stromal cell cancer (which begins in cells that produce female hormones) and germ cell cancer (which begins in cells that produce eggs in the ovaries) are rarer than epithelial cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer occurs in the cells that line the ovaries or fallopian tubes. The preferred method of treatment for ovarian cancer is often surgery followed often by chemotherapy.
  • Primary peritoneal cancer presents very few warning signs. It is a relative of epithelial ovarian cancer, but it can affect women who have had their ovaries removed. It usually occurs when cells in the peritoneum (a thin, protective tissue layer surrounding the abdomen) mutate into cancerous cells. Surgery is the main kind of treatment followed by chemotherapy.
  • Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) involves unusual growth of uterine cells that would normally form the placenta during a healthy pregnancy. This type of cancer is treatable, and many women affected by GTD are able to have regular pregnancies.

Counteract the fear of cancer with knowledge. Take control of your health by asking questions. The Magee-Womens Gynecologic Cancer Program of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh offers care for many types of reproductive cancer. Friendly experts are on hand to discuss a cancer diagnosis and to help weigh innovative options.

For more information on reproductive cancer and possible treatments, call 1-866-MY-MAGEE (696-2433).

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.