If you have questions regarding our services, please read some of our frequently asked questions below. If you have any other concerns that aren’t listed here, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
A gynecologic oncologist is a doctor who specifically manages the treatment of cancers of the ovary, uterus, cervix, vagina, vulva and other female genital tract malignancies. After medical school, gynecologic oncologists complete a 4-year residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Following this, a 3 to 4 year fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology is completed. During this time, special surgical skills are obtained in radical pelvic, gastrointestinal, and urologic surgery. This fellowship also provides training in administration of chemotherapy. The gynecologic oncologist must take a written and oral examination in Obstetrics and Gynecology to become a board certified OB/GYN. After this, a second written and oral examination must be taken in Gynecologic Oncology to become a board certified Gynecologic Oncologist.
The specific cause of cancer is unknown.
A papaniculaou smear (Pap Smear) is a screening tool used to detect pre-cancerous changes of the cervix. It is not useful in screening for ovarian or uterine cancers. If pre-cancerous changes are noted on pap smears, it can often be treated before it turns in to invasive cancer.
If the Pap smear is abnormal, your doctor may use an instrument to magnify the cervix called a colposcope. This is done in the office and is usually painless. It allows the examiner to identify abnormal areas of the cervix, vagina or vulva. There may be slight burning when acetic acid (vinegar solution) is applied to accentuate abnormal cells. If there are abnormal appearing areas, a biopsy may be taken. This will cause some mild cramping.
The stage of a malignancy describes the location of the cancer and what organs it may have spread to. Gynecologic cancers have 4 stages. Stage I and II usually represent early disease while Stage III and IV correlate with advanced disease. Grade is a description of what the cancer cell look like under a microscope. Gynecologic cancers usually have 3 grades.
A CA-125 blood test measures secretions from some cancers especially ovarian cancer. It is not a good screening tool because it can be elevated in some benign conditions. It is primarily used in patients with ovarian cancer to monitor the disease.
Ovarian cancer can spread by shedding malignant cells from the ovary throughout the abdominal cavity. The cells can implant on the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and can also grow on the surface of the liver, diaphragm, omentum, bladder, or intestines. Cancer cells can also spread through the blood stream or lymphatic system.
You are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer if a close relative, such as a mother or sister has the disease. A genetic test called BRCA 1 and 2 may be recommended if you have a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Removal of the ovaries will be discussed if this test is positive. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer. Exams, vaginal ultrasound and CA 125 tests may be recommended once or twice a year in high risk women.