September 29, 2017

Knowledge is Power When it Comes to Women’s Reproductive Cancer

Small things matter. September is National Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month – a great time to note the little things to know and do about your risks for three main cancers of women’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian and endometrial cancer.

“Take an active role in your health,” said Megan Daw, MD, MPH a gynecologic surgeon with Western Carolina Women’s Specialty Center. “Know your family history, get regular screenings, watch for small changes in your menstrual cycle, appetite or bowel and bladder habits, and maintain a healthy weight.”

Cervical Cancer

In 2017, 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Regular Pap smear screenings have reduced incidence by 50 percent in the last 30 years.

Common symptoms

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Bloating

Prevention/detection tips

  • Get regular Pap screenings starting at age 21 and human papillomavirus (HPV) test starting at 30
  • Get girls and boys vaccinated for HPV starting at age 11
  • Limit sexual partners to limit exposure to HPV virus
  • Quit smoking

Ovarian Cancer

About 22,440 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year; half occurs in women age 63 and older.

Common symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or belly pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Changes in bowel and bladder habits

Prevention/detection tips

  • Maintain ideal weight
  • Consider two tests used to screen for ovarian cancer: the CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) for women at high risk with a family history of certain cancers

Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer

About 61,380 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer this year, mostly over age 60.

Common symptoms

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting or discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Losing weight

Preventions/detection tips

  • Endometrial cancer cannot be prevented; lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight and being active
  • Seek medical care for abnormal pelvic pain or bleeding
  • Any bleeding after menopause should be evaluated

Megan Daw, MD, MPH is a gynecologic surgeon with Western Carolina Women’s Specialty Center, an affiliate of Mission Health. (828) 670-5665

Need to connect with a gynecologist? To find one in your area, visit