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.
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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.
At the orientation 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.
Before starting treatment, you will attend a simulation appointment to work out the optimal body position for receiving treatment and provide a detailed picture of the area to be treated.
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. Please bring an extra layer of clothing (e.g. cardigan or jacket) just in case you feel cold while you wait in the treatment reception area. Please report to the ARO reception desk. For free parking please refer to the information below. See location and parking for more information.
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.
Usually 2-6 weeks after your last treatment visit you will meet with your radiation oncologist or the doctor that referred you to ARO. Your GP will also be sent a report about your treatment and will continue to provide for your general health needs. You are welcome to contact our patient care team to answer questions or concerns that you may have about your treatment or possible side effects up to 2 weeks following your last treatment visit. Please telephone our nurses on 09 623 6585, email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment during business hours. Should you require support after 2 weeks, please contact the ARO Specialist Centre on phone 09 623 6587 or email email@example.com. For all other health concerns, please contact your GP, usual healthcare provider or local emergency facility.