Understanding Cancer

Gynae cancer

Cancers found in a woman’s reproductive organs are called gynaecological cancers.

Cancer of the cervix, ovaries, womb or uterus, vulva and vagina are considered gynae cancers. Although these are grouped together, they are extremely varied, each needing different treatment.

Gynaecological cancers make up 10% of all cancer cases in New Zealand.

In more detail

Some gynaecological cancers are very rare and more commonly start in other parts of the body so different treatments are used. For example, although lymphoma may originate in the lymph nodes of the vagina or cervix, the cancer will be treated as for any other lymphoma in the body.

Cervical Cancer forms in tissues of the cervix and is usually slow-growing. There are approximately 180 new diagnoses of cervical cancer in New Zealand each year and are nearly all caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries and can be classified into three types. Epithelial carcinoma makes up 9 out of 10 of ovarian cancers and begins in cells on the outer surface of the ovary or the ‘epithelium’. Germ cell tumours are very uncommon. They develop in the egg-producing cells of the ovaries. Sex-cord stromal cell tumours are rare and develop in the connective tissues.

Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of the vagina. Cancer can spread from other places in the body, but primary vaginal cancer is rare.

Vulval cancer is also rare.  They are most commonly seen on the inner edges of the labia majora and the labia minora. Although it’s rare, vulval cancer may also involve the clitoris, the perineun and the Bartholin glands, the small glands on each side of the vagina that produce lubricating mucus.

Cancer of the womb is often called uterine, or endometrial cancer. It begins in the layer of cells that form the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. Other types of cancer can form in the uterus, including uterine sarcoma, but these are rare. ARO Female Gynae Cancer Information sheet

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The Patient Pathway


First Specialist Appointment

At the first specialist appointment you will meet with your specialist radiation oncologist (RO) to discuss the proposed radiotherapy treatment approach and answer any questions and concerns you may have.

Orientation

At the treatment planning appointment a patient care specialist (nurse or radiation therapist) will explain the procedures in more detail and answer any concerns that you might have about ARO or your treatment.

Planning

During the days following your orientation and treatment planning appointment our team of experts (physicists, radiation therapist planners and your radiation oncologist) work together to develop the ideal treatment plan for you. This involves a highly sophisticated planning software system and review process to guarantee safe and effective delivery of treatment. Depending on the site and complexity of the treatment, this stage can take up to two weeks.

First Day of Treatment

You’ll need to arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so that we can greet you and to give you time to get changed for your treatment.

If you are driving, we recommend you enter Gate 3, 98 Mountain Road and drive up the ramp to the mid level car park. Please walk across the link bridge to Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO). Please report to the ARO reception desk. See location and parking for more information.

During Treatment

Weekly reviews with your radiation oncologist or one of our patient care team will be conducted to monitor any side effects and provide on-going support and advice as required.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to ensure appropriate care is organised after your last treatment visit. This may include regular monitoring of blood results, appointments for dressings and management of side effects.

Following Treatment