Gynecologic Cancers: What Every Woman Should Know

Yvette C. Terrie, BS Pharm, RPh


US Pharmacist. 2017;42(9):HS18-HS23. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Annually, all types of cancer claim more than a half-million lives. The most common gynecologic cancers include cervical, uterine, ovarian, vaginal, and vulvar cancer. A women should be advised to seek medical care from her primary healthcare provider if she experiences pain or any abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause. Treatments for gynecologic cancers may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Healthcare providers should encourage women to maintain regular examination routines with their gynecologist and to remain proactive about their gynecologic health.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by cardiovascular disease, and claims more than a half-million lives annually.[1] Although breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting the female population, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), gynecologic cancers impact women as well.[2] According to the CDC, the most common gynecologic cancers include cervical, uterine, ovarian, and vaginal and vulvar cancer.[3] The CDC also reports that all women are at risk for gynecologic cancers and that the risk increases with age.[3] Annually, more than 84,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with some type of gynecologic cancer; these cancers account for an estimated 28,000 deaths.[4,5]

Since there are screening parameters for some gynecologic cancers, pharmacists can encourage women to get routine checkups and screening to maintain gynecologic health or to identify an issue early on.

Virtually all cervical cancer and an estimated 40% to 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancer are linked to human papillomavirus (HPV).[6] The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices currently recommends routine vaccination of females and males aged 11 or 12 years to fight against HPV.[7]

During counseling, pharmacists have the opportunity to empower patients with pertinent information about risk factors, possible preventive measures, and the latest developments in treatments for gynecologic cancers so that patients can make informed decisions about their health and overall well-being.