A Doctor's Advice on Arming Yourself Against Gynecologic Cancers

Dr David Cohn

Education is important in the battle against gynecologic cancers, and it begins with a thorough knowledge of your body.

“A woman needs to understand her body and the symptoms of gynecologic cancers,” said David Cohn, MD, adding they include: Abdominal or pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, problems with urination (either frequency or urgency), or feeling full more quickly after eating.

If you have any of these symptoms, see your OB-GYN or another healthcare provider who can evaluate these symptoms, said Dr. Cohn, who is the Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

It’s also important to know your family history, as there are genetic links that can lead to gynecologic cancers. For example, the BRCA gene mutation leads to an increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and Lynch Syndrome leads to an increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.

Millions of men and women are infected with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to a wide range of cancers, including cervical cancer, cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus, as well as head and neck cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccination for all boys and girls ages 11 or 12. “Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger,” the CDC states.

After this age, the vaccinations are much less effective.

Other ways to reduce your cancer risk include what Dr. Cohn calls “big-ticket items,” including a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; regular exercise; not using tobacco; and maintaining a healthy body weight.

The incidence of uterine cancer is on the rise, and Dr. Cohn sees a link between this and the increase in the obesity rate.

“Estrogen is linked to uterine cancer and women who are obese will see changes in their body that increase the level of circulating estrogen,” Dr. Cohn said.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Cohn, is to do the best you can to lead a healthy life.

“There are a lot of things out there, such as talcum powder, that may be a weak link to cancer,” he said. “But we can’t put ourselves in a bubble and avoid everything. But do the things you can do, that you can control. Address the big-ticket items and lead a healthy, active life, and you’ll reduce your risk.”

For more information from Dr. Cohn on the weak link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, watch this video.

For more information on HPV vaccinations, visit our website.