The term gynaecological cancer refers to the five cancers that start in the female reproductive system:

  • Womb (also known as cancer of the uterus, endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer)
  • Cervical
  • Ovarian
  • Vaginal
  • Vulval

The majority of these cancers affect mostly women over 50, but cervical cancer has a much higher incidence rate in women aged between 25 and 50.

Symptoms related to cervical cancer include:

  • Between periods
  • After or during sex
  • At any time if you are past your menopausal

Some women also have:

  • A vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant
  • Discomfort or pain during sex

Doctors call pain related to sex 'dyspareunia'. There are many other conditions that cause these symptoms. Most of them are much more common than cervical cancer, but you should go to your doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms. You probably don't have cancer, but if you do, the sooner you are treated, the more likely you are to be cured and usually the less treatment you will need to have. Pre-cancerous cell changes do not usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to have a regular smear test.

The symptoms listed below typically relate to vulval cancer and vaginal cancers. They can include:
  • A lasting itch
  • Pain or soreness 
  • Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva 
  • An open sore or growth visible on the skin
  • Burning pain when you pass urine 
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding 
  • A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
  • A lump or swelling in the vulva / vagina , detectable by touch
Risk factors:
  • Being post-menopausal
  • Family history or inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA1 + BRCA2 and Lynch Syndrome
  • Reproductive history – infertility issues, never having had no children
  • Exposure to hormones such as HRT or taking Tamoxifen and taking the contraceptive pill for a long time
  • Having a history of breast cancer increases the risk of womb cancer
  • Being overweight and physically inactive
Specifically, in the case of vaginal cancers you may also experience:
  • Constipation
  • Swelling in your legs (oedema) 
  • Pain in the pelvic area that won’t go away

All these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as infection, but if you have any of these symptoms, again you should see your doctor. If you have an infection, it is also important to get treatment and if it should turn out to be something more serious, it is even more important to get treatment as early as possible.

Ovarian Cancer affects 6700 and Cervical Cancer 2800 women of all ages respectively across the UK. But if these cancers are caught early and treated successfully, the outlook is normally very positive. If you have symptoms, make an appointment and talk to your GP as early as possible and if you need further treatment you may wish to ask him to refer you into our service.

Related tests and scans

Related treatments and procedures