Spire Portsmouth Gynaecology at Spire Portsmouth Hospital in Havant, Hampshire offers a specialist service for the diagnosis, treatment and care of women with gynaecological cancers. These include cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, vulval cancer and endometrial / womb (uterine) cancer.
Find out more about the conditions treated at Spire Portsmouth Gynaecology below.
The most common of all gynaecological cancers in England and Wales is endometrial cancer; this condition has been increasing in incidence with rising life expectancies. The least common gynaecological cancer is vulval cancer; as it is a skin cancer it is easily visible to direct inspection and early detection.
Although environmental factors are known to play a role, there is evidence that cancer can run in families. Analysis of the family tree for different cancers may offer insight into an individual’s risk and help to develop screening strategies, including blood tests to determine if high risk genes are present.
Endometrial cancer or cancer of the womb/uterus is England and Wales' most common gyanecological cancer. Causes can vary depending on lifestyle; however smoking and weight gain are common risk factors for all cancers1.
Find out more about endometrial cancer
Other causes of endometrial cancer include not having children and oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The main reason these factors can cause endometrial cancer is they do not allow the lining of the womb to be shed which helps to remove any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells within the womb.
Symptoms of endometrial cancer include, post-menopausal bleeding, bleeding in between periods or a lump in the pelvis. Endometrial cancer can be diagnosed with a laparoscopy (a camera in the abdomen) or a biopsy to take a sample from any lumps found to determine the nature of the tumour (benign or cancer).
Treatment for endometrial cancer can range from removal of the tumour to a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) depending on the severity of the cancer. Afterwards chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be required which would be discussed between your gynaecology consultant and oncologist.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women under 35 in the UK due to its main risk factor, infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), increasing with the number of sexual partners. However there are other risk factors which can also cause cervical cancer including smoking, HIV/AIDS (which suppresses the immune system), having a sister or mother who has had cervical cancer and long-term use of the oral contraceptive2.
Find out more about cervival cancer
Symptoms of cervical cancer include bleeding in between periods, after or during sex or at any time after the menopause. Signs may also include pain or discomfort during sex and a vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant. Though these problems aren’t always caused by cancer, it is worth being checked.
When a cervical smear test is carried out and it gives an abnormal result, a colposcopy (camera) may be inserted to view the cervix directly and possibly take a biopsy.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK. Causes relate to lifetime of ovulations. Another important factor is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Other risk factors include age, never giving birth, infertility, having endometriosis and being overweight3.
Find out more about ovarian cancer
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include pain in the abdomen or side, bloating or feeling full and needing to pass urine more frequently. Ovarian cancer is often known as the ‘silent killer’ because symptoms don’t always become obvious until it’s too late and are often associated with more benign conditions. However, whilst the causes may well be benign, if you are at risk and are experiencing symptoms it is worth being checked by your gynaecologist who will organise a blood test for CA125.
Currently there is an ovarian cancer screening test clinical trial, UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), running to find out whether or not screening is accurate and reliable enough to be used as standard practice; until these findings are published however the only way to prevent ovarian cancer is through taking the ovary out to be tested in a laboratory.
Treatments for ovarian cancer include removal of the tumour, any sites of spread and chemotherapy. This would be decided based on the stage that the cancer is diagnosed at i.e. if it is likely to have spread or not.
Cancer of the vulva affects the external sex organs of a woman. Quite often it is a cancer which is slow to develop so it can often be found in a pre-cancerous stage. Sometimes these cells can go away on their own but they may require treatment so that they do not become invasive4.
Find out more about vulval cancer
Vulval cancer is a rare cancer in the UK with the majority of cases diagnosed in women over 65. There are several causes including the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which causes 40% of vulval cancer cases and is commonly passed from one person to another through sexual activity. Other causes of vulval cancer can include a weakened immune system, genital herpes infection, smoking and some skin conditions.
Symptoms of vulval cancer include itchy or sore skin around the vaginal entrance, a mole or lump on the vulva that has changed size, colour or shape, pain when passing urine or vaginal discharge or bleeding. There is no set test or screen for vulval cancer, however during a cervical smear the doctor or nurse can check for any signs of vulval cancer and take a biopsy if necessary.
Treatments for vulval cancer include removal of the cancer in a similar fashion to the removal of other skin cancers.