09 Aug, 2023
Gynaecological screening significantly impacts the overall health of women. Some of these include:
Several conditions that affect women’s health, such as cervical cancer, HPV, and breast cancer, do not present any initial symptoms. It is thus essential to diagnose these conditions through gynaecological screening to effectively manage them in the initial stage.
Several conditions, such as cervical and ovarian cancer, significantly affect women’s reproductive health. Routine gynaecological screening for these conditions assists gynaecologists in monitoring reproductive health and determining the reasons for diseases, such as infertility and menstrual disorders.
The incidence of breast cancer is increasing. Early diagnosis of breast cancer significantly affects the overall health, morbidity, and mortality of breast cancer patients. Breast cancer screening through routine mammography helps gynaecologists comprehensively assess breast health. Several advanced approaches for breast cancer screening, such as those involving artificial intelligence, are used by some hospitals.
Gynaecological screening not only helps detect several conditions early but also helps determine the risk of developing them. For instance, Pap smear tests determine the presence of specific cells that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. Further, certain vitals, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, hormonal levels, and physical characteristics, are also evaluated during the routine screening that provides the woman’s overall health status.
Some of the common gynaecological issues are:
Endometriosis is characterised by the development of the cells or tissues of the endometrium or uterus outside the uterus. Patients with endometriosis experience infertility, painful periods, painful intercourse, excessive bleeding, painful urination and bowel movements, fatigue, constipation, nausea, and diarrhoea. The exact cause of endometriosis remains unknown. Certain factors increase the risk of endometriosis, such as initiation of menstruation at an early age, achieving menopause at a later age, never giving birth, low body mass index, and underlying diseases of the reproductive system.
Uterine fibroid is a condition that involves abnormal uterine growth of connective tissues and muscles. It is also known as myomas. It does not increase the risk of uterine cancer. Patients with uterine fibroids have pelvic pain or pressure, constipation, frequent urination, a heavy menstrual period, leg pain, backaches, and constipation.
Menorrhagia is a condition characterised by prolonged and/or heavy menstrual bleeding. The routine activities are significantly hampered because of the severe bleeding and cramps in women with menorrhagia. Several underlying conditions are often attributed to heavy menstrual bleeding. These include ovarian dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids, pregnancy complications, implanting intrauterine devices, and inherited bleeding disorders.
Menopause is a condition wherein women have no menstrual bleeding continuously for 12 months. The causes of menopause include a natural reduction in female hormones, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, ovarian removal, or primary ovarian insufficiency. Women with menopausal syndrome experience vaginal dryness, chills, hot flashes, irregular periods, mood changes, dry skin, weight gain, and thinning hair. The complications of menopause include osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, urinary incontinence, and reduced libido.
The uterus drops into the vagina in uterine prolapse. The condition occurs due to the weakening of the tissues and muscles of the pelvis. In severe uterine prolapse, the uterus sometimes comes out of the vagina. The risk factors for this condition include menopause, vaginal delivery, smoking, being overweight, and giving birth.
Several conditions may affect the vagina. These include vaginal infections, inflammation, and cancer. Vaginal inflammation is known as vaginitis. Vaginal infections may be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Bacterial vaginosis is due to bacterial overgrowth in the vagina, while fungal infections are commonly due to Candida albicans. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that develops due to parasites.
Some of the gynaecological cancers are:
The cervix is the lowermost part of the uterus and is a connection between the vagina and the upper uterus. Uncontrolled division of the cervical cells results in cervical cancer. The Human papillomavirus plays a vital role in the development of cervical cancer. Risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, multiple sex partners, and a compromised immune system.
Uterine cancer involves the development of cancerous cells in the uterus. The cancer cells may develop in the inner uterine lining (endometrial cancer) or the uterine muscles (uterine sarcomas). Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, obesity, certain genetic disorders, diabetes, early menstruation, late menopause, never getting pregnant, and using tamoxifen as a part of breast cancer treatment have an increased risk of uterine cancer.
Ovarian cancer develops when the ovarian cells divide uncontrollably, resulting in a tumour. Unfortunately, most ovarian cancers do not present symptoms at an early stage. It is thus important to undergo routine screening, especially for women at high risk of ovarian cancer. The factors increasing the risk of ovarian cancer include advanced age, the presence of BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, obesity, a family history of ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and taking postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
The fallopian tube is a tube-like connection between the ovaries and the uterus. The fallopian tube carries the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Women with fallopian tube cancer experience abdominal pain, constipation, painful intercourse, fatigue, frequent urination, and indigestion. Risk factors for fallopian tube cancer include advanced age, early menstruation, and late menopause, family history of breast, fallopian tube, or ovarian cancer, obesity, endometriosis, and hormone replacement therapy.
Vulva is the part of the female reproductive system present outside the body. It surrounds the urethra and the vagina. The most common symptom of vulvar cancer is itching. Other symptoms include tenderness and pain, thickening of the vulvar skin, altered colour of vulvar skin, bleeding not due to menstruation, and open sore, lump, or bump on the vulva.
Vaginal cancer is a condition characterised by the presence of malignant cells in the vagina. Types of vaginal cancer include adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and sarcoma. Patients with vaginal cancer may have painful intercourse, constipation, painful urination, bleeding between the menstruation cycles, a lump in the vagina, and pain in the pelvic region.
Some of the treatment options for common gynaecological problems and cancers include:
A gynaecologist may recommend gynaecological surgery in the management of several conditions. The diseases that can be treated with gynaecological surgeries include endometriosis, uterine fibroids, cancers of the uterus, vagina, fallopian tube, and ovaries, uterine prolapse, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease. The techniques for performing gynaecological cancer surgeries include laparoscopic, open, and robotic surgery. The most common gynaecological surgery for gynaecological problems is minimally invasive surgery.
In radiation therapy, high-energy radiation is directed at the cancer cells to damage them. Radiation therapy is important for adjuvant post-surgical treatment and non-invasive management of various gynaecological conditions. The cancers treated with radiation therapy include ovarian cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and uterine cancer. Gynaecological radiation oncology includes brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy involves using various medications that destroy rapidly multiplying cells in the body, including cancer cells. Chemotherapy is generally administered orally and through injection. The drug is delivered in multiple sessions, depending on the stage of gynaec cancer. Chemotherapy alone may be used to manage gynaecological cancers or as an adjuvant to surgery or radiation therapy.
Certain cancers progress due to higher levels of hormones. Hormone therapy in gynaecology either reduces the level of these hormones or interferes with their activity. This results in slowing or stopping the progression of cancer. The patients undergo a comprehensive examination to determine if their cancer will respond to hormone therapy before therapy initiation.
Certain proteins and genes present in cancer cells assist in the growth and multiplication of cancer cells. Targeted drug therapy targets these proteins and genes, preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Targeted drug therapy may be used along with conventional therapy.
Immunotherapy is an advanced treatment option for various gynaec cancers. During immunotherapy, the drug makes the cancer cells more vulnerable to the immune system’s rapid destructing abilities. In immunotherapy, the drug interferes with the process in the cancer cells, which helps them hide from the immune system.
Palliative care for gynaecological cancers aims to manage cancer symptoms, improve the quality of life, and prolong survival, if possible. The symptoms that can be managed through palliative care include pain and vaginal bleeding due to uterine cancer. Radiation therapy and surgical interventions are generally used in palliative care in gynaecological cancer.
Conservative surgery for gynaecological cancer involves the removal of abnormal growth along with a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue. Conservative surgery aims to avoid major invasive treatment and preserve the function of the affected organ. Gynaecological physiotherapy may be recommended in some cases after gynaecological surgery.
HCG EKO Cancer Centre, Kolkata, is an advanced centre for managing various gynaecological cancers. The centre is equipped with advanced diagnostic and surgical facilities that assist in the early diagnosis and effective management of various cancers in women. Further, the centre has the facility for performing various gynaecological surgery types, including robotic-assisted surgery.
The gynaecological cancer care team at the HCG EKO Cancer Centre comprises gynaecological experts with years of experience. The team is assisted by extensively trained paramedical staff that provides complete patient care before and after the surgery.
There are several common gynaecological problems and treatments. These include cancer, endometriosis, uterine prolapse, vaginal infections, infertility, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Various treatment options, such as pharmacotherapy and gynaecologic operations, are available to manage these conditions. Treatment options for gynaecological cancers include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, gynaecologic operations, and targeted drug therapy. Natural remedies for gynaecological problems may also be prescribed along with the main treatment.
Are there minimally invasive treatment options for gynaecological conditions?
Several minimally invasive surgical options are available for the management of gynaecological cancers. These include laparoscopic surgery and robotic-assisted surgery.
What are the long-term effects of gynaecological treatment?
The long-term effects of the gynaecological treatment depend on the type of treatment. The common long-term effects of gynaecological cancer treatment include sexual dysfunction, infertility, altered bowel movements, skin colour changes, and peripheral neuropathy.
What are the potential complications of gynaecologic surgery?
The complications of gynaecological surgery include bleeding, infection, deep vein thrombosis, urinary retention, pulmonary embolism, damage to the bowel, bladder, or ureter, and paralytic ileus.
How can you reduce the risk of gynaecologic cancer?
The risk of gynaecological cancer can be reduced by lowering the risk of human papillomavirus, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and regular screening.
Can blood infection cause gynaecological problems?
Blood infection increases the risk of several gynaecological conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or pelvic abscess. Pregnant women with blood infections are at increased risk of miscarriage.
What are the symptoms of gynaecological problems?
The common symptoms of gynaecological issues include pelvic pain, fatigue, an irregular menstrual cycle, infertility, and heavy vaginal bleeding.