Gynaecological Cancer ... unravelling the myths!

There are common misconceptions when it comes to gynaecological cancer “facts”. Take a moment to review the following misconceptions as it could save your life! Next time you are with your friends see whether they are aware of what is fact and what is fiction.

  • women can get gynaecological cancer even AFTER a hysterectomy
  • the PAP smear ONLY detects cervical cancer, not other types
  • ovarian cancer has a far lower 5 year survival rate than breast cancer
  • no established diet exists that would prevent gynaecological cancer
  • 6 our of 7 women with ovarian cancer have NO family history
 

Really!? Women who've had a hysterectomy can STILL get gynaecological cancer?

It's true. Not all patients choose to have their ovaries and/or fallopian tubes removed when undergoing hysterectomies. In fact, there have even been rare cases where women with no ovaries were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Medical professionals are not certain as to why this occurs, but women have been reported as having cancerous cells where their ovaries once were.  Some doctors believe that when removed, the ovaries may have already had amounts of cancer so small they were undetectable, leaving traces of cancer cells that subsequently grew in the place of the ovaries. This type of cancer has also presented as 'peritoneal' cancer, which is the thin lining of the stomach. However, biopsies showed the cancer originated from the ovaries (although no longer there).

Recent evidence suggests that the fallopian tubes should be removed during a hysterectomy (even in young women) because it reduces the risk of gynaecological cancer.

Vaginal or vulval cancer is also not avoided through having a hysterectomy.

The PAP Smear doesn't detect all types of cancer?

No. The PAP Smear ONLY detects cervical cancer cells. We are constantly surprised by the number of women who believe the PAP Smear is a 'one stop shop' that will detect all kinds of gynaecological cancer. Our advice is, do not think you are 'safe' from gynaecological cancer just because you had a clear PAP Smear. Be constantly vigilant and if you notice any unusual changes in your body, seek medical advice promptly.

Do more women die from ovarian cancer than breast cancer?

No. However, women diagnosed with breast cancer have an average 90% five year survival rate, compared with just 43% five year survival rate for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

If I lead a healthy lifestyle, could I still get cancer?

Yes. While we do know that obesity and adverse lifestyle factors such as smoking are directly linked to gynaecological cancers like endometrial cancer, there is no proven 'diet' that prevents cancer. A healthy diet lowers your risk of being diagnosed, but we don't know exactly which foods may fight or prevent cancer.  Our advice is to maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle and avoid risk factors like obesity and smoking that are known to be linked with gynaecological cancer.

I have no family history of cancer, so I probably won't get it

Not true. In fact, most women diagnosed with gynaecological cancer have no family history (6 out of 7 for ovarian cancer). Again, the best thing you can do is to closely monitor your body for changes. Remember that for ovarian cancer, there often aren't any early warning signs. Survival rates for gynaecological cancer are much higher when women seek medical attention as early as possible.