The term ‘reproductive cancer’ may raise questions, especially once women have passed their reproductive years. Actually the incidence of female cancers rises with age, when women might not expect it.
“For instance, women who have post menopausal bleeding with uterine cancer, clearly a sign of cancer, the average delay from first bleed to treatment is nine months,” says Dr. Jimmy Orr, an gynecological oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Uterine cancer is most common in women who have gone through menopause. The average age for uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancer is between 60 and 65.
By comparison, the ‘younger’ woman’s cancer is cervical- it occurs mostly over age 30. But some women stop looking for it after menopause despite the success rate of the PAP test.
“The advantage of the Pap test is it actually finds precancerous lesions before they develop into a cancer,” says Dr. Ed Halpren, an ob/gyn on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Only used to detect cervical cancer, the Pap test is limited.
“The Pap smear allows us to look at a very large population of women that may be at risk for cervical cancer and then comb down which women really need a little more attention,” says Dr. Halpren.
It’s no substitute for self-monitoring.
“I think the pelvis exam, visit to your gynecologist, the PAP test. Women need to feel free to talk and say look, I’m having this pain, I’m having this bloating, it’s something that’s just not right. And I think that’s a take home message,” says Dr. Orr.
Perhaps the best gatekeeper when it comes to gynecological cancers, is you.