About Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer screening begins with yearly pelvic exams at your doctor’s office. During this exam, your doctor may complete a Pap smear. The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cervical cancer screening tests available. Your doctor may also use the HPV test to screen for cervical cancer. The HPV test can provide more information if you receive an unclear Pap test result.

Gynecological cancer is any cancer that begins in one of the reproductive organs and includes:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Peritoneal cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Symptoms and Diagnosing

Each gynecologic cancer is unique and can have many signs, symptoms, and risk factors. Some gynecological cancers have no symptoms. It is important to discuss your risk factors with your primary care provider and to get regular gynecologic exams. As with most cancers, treatment is more effective when cancer is found early.

Symptoms* include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Back pain
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bathroom habits (increased urination, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Changes in vulva color or skin (rash, sores, warts, ulcers)
  • Itching or burning of the vulva
  • Pelvic pain or pressure

* If you experience any of the symptoms, consult your physician immediately.

Diagnosis: The physical exam, combined with all of your test results (including biopsies and information from surgeries), will help to determine the type and stage of cancer. Doctors use staging to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, gynecological cancers are staged from stage I through stage IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment and Surgical Options

Your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you based on the location and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall health.

Your surgical options may include open surgery, performed through one large incision, or minimally invasive surgery, performed through a few small incisions.

If you are facing a gynecological cancer that requires surgery, your doctor may recommend robotic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure enhanced by the precision of robotics. The Virginia Institute of Robotic Surgery offers the latest advances in robotic-assisted surgery, which offers many benefits for our patients.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

During minimally invasive robotic surgery, your surgeon makes a few small incisions, similar to traditional laparoscopy. Surgery is then performed using the da Vinci® Surgical System, featuring a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and special wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. These features enable your surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity, and control. The surgeon is in full control of the robotic instruments at all times—the instruments do not move on their own.

Benefits include:

  • Faster recovery time
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Less pain
  • Less scarring
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Shorter hospital stay


Take an active role in your treatment. Access support and education resources through the FDA’s Healthy Women site, or ask your doctor or medical team for additional educational and support resources in your area.