A couple years ago I started this crazy habit of noting some of the lesser known observances of each month. For example, September is national honey, yoga, sewing and doughnut month. It’s also Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. Who knew? Even though there are only a few more days left in the month, there’s still time to share this information with our mothers, sisters, nieces, girlfriends, neighbors and co-workers because screening and early detection are key.
Gynecologic cancers start in a woman’s reproductive organs. There are five main types:
Cervical. This can be found through routine screening with Pap tests which are quite effective in both prevention and in finding cancer early enough to cure it.
Uterine. This is sometimes called endometrial cancer because the most common type of uterine cancer occurs in the inner lining, known as the endometrium. This usually occurs after menopause, with vaginal bleeding as its most common symptom.
Vaginal. An uncommon cancer, it represents only 1% of the gynecologic cancers. That doesn’t mean it’s not something to look out for, though. Its five-year survival rate is only around 50%. (Note: that number goes up to 84% if it’s found before it has spread.)
Vulvar. An uncommon cancer, it mainly affects women over 50–and is almost never found in females under 20. This occurs on the outer surface of the female’s genitalia, usually forming as a lump or sore on the vulva that might lead to itching or pain. You can be alerted to the cancer’s presence by looking out for these signs.
Ovarian. Of these five cancers, ovarian—the eighth most common cancer in the US.—is the deadliest. It is very difficult to detect. It is separated out from the other four in having its own name attached to the month.
Think about extending your awareness into October. While you’re at it, check out our health initiative, Raising up Healthy Women and Girls!
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.