September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. There will be nearly 92,000 new cases of gynecologic cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2013, estimates the American Cancer Society. Gynecologic cancers include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
What many women with this type of cancer may not realize is how important it is to seek care from a gynecologic oncologist, an obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the female reproductive system.
Dr. Justin Chura, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at CTCA in Philadelphia, says, “Any woman with a known or suspected gynecologic cancer should be seen by a gynecologic oncologist from the start. Patients who have their first procedure by someone other than a gynecologic oncologist may not receive the most optimal surgery for the disease.”
Why is it important for a woman with gynecologic cancer to see a specialist?
- Narrow focus – Gynecologic oncologists provide a level of expertise that’s different from other oncologists, who may treat a variety of cancers. The only cancers gynecologic oncologists treat are gynecologic cancers. That narrow focus is beneficial.
- Specialized training - Gynecologic cancers are complex and treatment often involves multiple modalities such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A gynecologic oncologist is specially trained to diagnose and treat these types of cancers, as well as premalignant conditions that lead to gynecologic cancer.
- Accurate staging - Finding the exact stage of the cancer is vital to planning the most appropriate treatment. Gynecologic oncologists are trained to perform accurate staging surgery and cytoreductive (debulking) surgery to find and remove tumors that have spread in the pelvic and abdominal areas.
- Comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment - A gynecologic oncologist understands the impact of cancer and its treatment on a woman’s life, including future childbearing, sexuality, physical and emotional well-being, and family dynamics. They can help address all of your needs throughout treatment.
- Continuity of care - With a gynecologic oncologist, one doctor can manage all your treatment. He/she can perform surgery and administer chemotherapy if needed, allowing for continuity of care and the development of a long-term relationship with the patient.
Even if you’ve already had surgery with a gynecologist or general surgeon, a gynecologic oncologist can help you plan next steps.
Want to learn more about gynecologic cancer? Check out our newsletter to read common symptoms, ways to prevent or detect gynecologic cancer early, and ways to take charge of your care if you are diagnosed with the disease.