Symptoms

Recognising the symptoms of gynaecological cancer is key to ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms of Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
Symptoms of Vulval Cancer

There are five main types of gynaecological cancer, all with differing symptoms. You can find these symptoms listed below.

Remember, having these symptoms does not mean that you have or will get cancer, but it is important to consult your doctor.  You may like to print this page and take it with you. 

 

Cervical

Bleeding or spotting after periods have stopped (after menopause)
Bleeding or spotting after sex
Bleeding or spotting between periods
Pain during sex
Persistent pain in your pelvis

Unusual and persistent discharge from your vagina

Endometrial (uterine)

Bleeding from the bladder or the rectum
Bleeding or spotting after periods have stopped (after menopause)
Bleeding or spotting between periods
Build-up of fluid in the abdomen (called ascites) or in the leg (called lymphedema)
Difficulty breathing
Lack of appetite
Pain during sex
Pain during urination, difficulty urinating or blood in the urine
Pain or feeling of pressure in the pelvis, lower abdomen, back or legs
Painful bowel movements, constipation or blood in the stool
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

Unusual and persistent discharge from your vagina

Ovarian

Abdominal or pelvic pain
Back pain/aches
Change in bowel habits (loose stools/constipation is a VERY common symptom)
Fatigue
Frequent need to urinate or urgency to go
Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating that comes and goes
Indigestion
Menstrual irregularities
Pain during sex

Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in New Zealand women. Ovarian cancer begins in a woman's ovaries. They are part of a woman's reproductive system. There are two ovaries, one on each side of the body.

Vaginal

Bleeding or spotting after periods have stopped (after menopause)
Bleeding or spotting after sex
Bleeding or spotting between periods
Blood stained vaginal discharge
Change in bowel habits (loose stools/constipation is a VERY common symptom)
Lump or itch in your vagina that won't go away
Pain during sex
Pain during urination, difficulty urinating or blood in the urine

Pain in the pelvic area or rectum

Vulval

Bleeding from the vulva or blood-stained vaginal discharge between periods
An open sore or growth visible on the skin
Burning pain when passing urine
Lump or wart-like growth on the vulva
Mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
Pain or tenderness in the vulva
Recurring/persistent itch in the vulva
Swelling

Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva

 

How to reduce the risk of gynaecological cancers

1. Reducing exposure to the HPV virus

Having safe sex (using condoms) with all sexual partners will reduce the risk of exposure to HPV.  Use of the HPV vaccine by girls before they become sexually active has been shown to protect them from HPV infection and help prevent vulval, vaginal and cervical cancers.

2. Be smoke-free

Smoking increases the risk for cervical cancer in particular. Stopping now may start to reduce your risk and will help to improve your general health. 

QUIT SMOKING

3. A healthy diet and regular physical activity

Being overweight can increase the risk for some gynaecological cancers.  For helpful information and advice visit 
EAT MOVE LIVE.  It may also be worth asking your doctor if you qualify for a GREEN PRESCRIPTION.

4. Regular cervical screening

The best way to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer is to have regular cervical screening every 3 years.  Women who have had the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine must continue to have regular cervical screening because they will not be protected against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. In New Zealand, approximately 160 women develop cancer of the cervix each year, and about 60 women die from it. 

Over 85% of women who develop cervical cancer have either never been screened or have been screened infrequently.

It is important to know that cervical screening will not detect or protect against the other gynaecological cancers - Endometrial (Uterine), Ovarian, Vaginal or Vulval.

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