Gynecologic oncology in Northern Virginia
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be stressful and overwhelming. That's why our board-certified gynecologic oncologists at Reston Hospital Center are committed to providing high-quality, compassionate care for all types of gynecologic cancer and supporting you throughout your cancer journey.
For more information about our gynecologic cancer services, please call (877) 689-3627.
Our team helps you understand your diagnosis and offers individualized treatment plans. With accreditation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC), our oncology program provides an expert team of medical professionals dedicated to improving your health.
What is gynecological cancer?
Gynecologic cancer is a cancer that begins in a woman's reproductive organs. Gynecological cancer can begin in different places within a woman's pelvis, the area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. All women are at risk for developing this form of cancer, especially women who are older.
Early detection of gynecologic cancer allows for more effective treatment. For women who are between 21 and 65 years old, doctors recommend having a Pap smear (method used for screening of the cervix) every three years to detect any abnormalities. However, if you have any persistent abnormal symptoms, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Types of gynecologic cancer we treat
At Reston Hospital, our team treats different types of gynecological cancer, including:
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Uterine cancer
Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix—the lower, narrow part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina. According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death in American women. With the increased use of the Pap smear, more doctors are able to find changes in the cervix before cancer develops.
Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife, with the most frequent diagnoses occurring in women between 35 and 44 years old. However, cervical cancer rarely occurs in women who have regular tests to screen for cervical cancer. Regular testing allows for early detection of cell changes, providing time for proper treatment to rid of diseased cells before cancer develops.
Cervical cancer risk factors
There are many risk factors that increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. While these risk factors can increase the odds of cervical cancer, many women with these risks do not develop the disease. Risk factors include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- A weakened immune system
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Family history of cervical cancer
Symptoms of cervical cancer
Symptoms of cervical cancer tend to not begin until the cancer starts to grow into nearby tissue. Once this happens, the most common symptoms are:
- Abnormal vagina bleeding
- Periods that are longer or heavier than usual
- An unusual discharge from the vagina—may contain some blood
- Pain during sex
It's important to not wait until you are experiencing symptoms to seek help from your doctor. Be sure to have regular Pap smears and screenings to catch any possible developments of cervical cancer.
The female reproductive system consists of two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. Ovaries produce eggs and the estrogen and progesterone hormones in women. Ovarian tumors can form in various places within an ovary and have different types, including:
- Epithelial tumors: Begins in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries
- Stromal tumors: Originates in the ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells
- Germ cell tumors: Tumors that form in the egg-producing cells
Ovarian cancer risk factors
Stromal tumors and germ cell tumors are less common types of ovarian cancer, and the standard risk factors do not apply. However, there are a variety of factors that can increase your risk for epithelial ovarian cancer, such as:
- Getting older
- Having children later or never having a full-term pregnancy
- Using fertility treatments
- Taking hormone therapy after menopause
- Having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer has many signs and symptoms, even in the earlier stages. Women may experience:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (always feeling like you have to go or having to go often)
- Back pain
- Changes in menstrual period
Uterine cancer, also referred to as uterine sarcoma, is a rare cancer that begins in the muscles and supporting tissues of the uterus. Sarcomas are cancers that form from tissues like muscle, fat, bone and the material that creates tendons and ligaments.
Uterine cancer risk factors
While doctors aren't sure what causes uterine sarcomas, certain risk factors have been identified, such as:
- Pelvic radiation therapy
- Retinoblastoma (RB) gene changes
Symptoms of uterine cancer
Uterine sarcomas tend to reach an advanced stage before signs and symptoms become present. However, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing the following, as they can serve as indicators:
- Abnormal bleeding or spotting
- Vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain and/or a mass
Screening tests are the best way to identify the disease. At this time, there are no specific tests or exams to detect uterine sarcomas. However, a Pap smear can sometimes find uterine cancer in its early stages.
Treatment for gynecological cancer
Our oncology specialists will develop a personalized approach to care to provide you the optimal outcome for your type of cancer. Your treatment plan will most likely include one or more of the following:
We're committed to using the most advanced yet effective surgical techniques as possible. Often, gynecologic oncology surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive robotic surgery. This type of surgery requires smaller incisions than traditional surgical procedures, resulting in less pain, reduced blood loss, less scarring, a shorter hospital stay and, ultimately, a faster recovery for our patients.