What is gynaecology oncology?

Gynaecology oncology is a subspecialty of oncology that involves diagnosing and treating gynaecological cancer affecting women.

Gynaecology oncologic treatments exist for the following forms of female-related cancers:

  • Cervical cancer
    develops when cancer forms in the cervical cells. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that attaches to the vagina. Changes to the cervical cells can occur due to exposure to various human papillomavirus (HPV) strains.
  • Endometrial cancer
    is a form of cancer in the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Unfortunately, the continuous use of hormone replacement medication (oestrogen therapy) for menopause increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer
    occurs in the ovaries, causing the mass of abnormal cells to multiply uncontrollably. The increase in the number of unhealthy cells can cause further invasion of healthy surrounding tissue.
  • Vaginal cancer
    is cancer that arises in the vagina. Cancer begins in the cellular lining of the vaginal surface. Women over 60 and those with HPV are at increased risk of vaginal cancer.
  • Vulva cancer
    develops on the outer edges of the vagina. As a result, cancer can develop on the outskirts of the vagina, including the vaginal lips (labia minora and Majora), the clitoris, and two glands on either side of the vagina (Bartholin’s glands).

What do gynaecological cancer treatments involve?

Your oncologist may conduct various treatments to treat gynaecological cancer, such as surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, chemotherapy which entails using chemicals to reduce the size of the tumour or destroy remaining cancerous tissue and radiation that makes use of high-powered X-rays to eliminate cancer.

What is the outcome of these procedures?

Most of these procedures are considered favourable. However, your recovery will depend on the treatment and type and stage of cancer. Therefore, regular follow-ups with Dr Mthombeni are required in order to determine how well you are recovering from cancer treatment.


How long does an appointment with a gynecologic oncologist take?

Your first visit can take up to three to six hours, depending on what needs to be treated.


What are the common signs of female genital cancer?

Female genital cancer can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Bloating
  • Trouble eating
  • Pelvic pain

What are the risk factors of gynaecological cancer?

The following factors can increase the risk of gynaecological cancer:

  • Family history of female genital cancer
  • HPV
  • Obesity
  • Ageing
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