The Program in Women’s Oncology treats the full range of gynecologic cancers, including cancer of the cervix, endometrium/uterus, fallopian tube, ovaries, vagina, and vulva. Each is described below.
Women & Infants Hospital Program in Women's Oncology
668 Eddy Street
Providence, RI 02903
P: (401) 453-7520
F: (401) 453-7529
Please be advised that this location is a provider-based clinic and both a physician and facility fee will be assessed, which may result in a higher out-of-pocket expense.
Cervical cancer occurs when the cells from your cervix begin to grow out of control and even invade nearby tissues. Large collections of these cells form tumors. Some tumors are benign, which means they cannot spread or threaten your life. Others can spread throughout your body and are considered malignant.
Endometrial/uterine cancer occurs when the cells in your endometrium (the lining of the uterus) begin to grow out of control and even invade nearby tissues or spread throughout the body. Large collections of these cells form tumors. Some tumors, including fibroids, are benign because they cannot spread or threaten your life. Others can spread throughout your body and are considered malignant.
Fallopian tube cancer is an abnormal growth of malignant cells in one or both of your fallopian tubes. It is the rarest of all gynecologic cancers.
Ovarian cancer occurs when the cells from your ovaries begin to grow out of control and even invade nearby tissues. Large collections of these cells form tumors. Some tumors are benign because they cannot spread or threaten your life. Others can spread throughout your body and are considered malignant.
Vaginal cancer is an abnormal growth of malignant cells in your vagina.
Vulva cancer is an abnormal growth of malignant cells in your vulva, which is the female external genitalia, including the labia, clitoris, and vestibule.
Gynecologic cancer largely applies to the malignancies of the female reproductive system which includes the:
Malignancies of the breast have received more awareness - and rightfully so - but there is a similar need to heighten the awareness of gynecologic cancers.
In general, malignancies are more common as people age, but gynecologic pelvic malignancies can affect women - and young girls - of all ages. All cases of gynecologic cancer should be looked at individually.
Pelvic gynecologic cancers are relatively less frequent, but still a very significant health problem for women. Cancers of the endometrium (uterus), ovary, cervix, and other areas constitute approximately 70,000 cases each year in the United States, compared to 180,000 women who develop breast cancer. In many countries, however, cervical cancer is the most common, and an even bigger health care problem. Pap smear screenings, which diagnosis precancerous changes on the cervix, are a major factor in limiting this problem in the US.
The survival rate with all cancers depends on the type of malignancy, the stage, and its unique biology. Many gynecologic pelvic malignancies - endometrial/uterine cancer, for example - are cured completely. Surgery alone is curative for most women with endometrial cancer, but radiation and occasionally chemotherapy can be called for. Likewise, cervical cancer is usually cured by surgery and/or radiation. It may be surprising to learn there are many types of ovarian cancer. Some are entirely curable by surgery and chemotherapy while others are not, though treatments for all types of ovarian cancers can greatly extend life, and the quality of life, for years.
Having regular gynecologic examinations is not something anyone looks forward to, but its benefits are substantial in terms of diagnosing cancer at a time when it is early and curable. It is often said that ovarian cancer is the “silent killer” of women because there are no early signs, though there are ongoing efforts to diagnose ovarian cancer earlier. As far as “screening tests” for other gynecologic malignancies, mammography, pap smears and endometrial biopsies (to evaluate any type of abnormal uterine bleeding) are readily available and highly useful.
Genetics plays a significant role in the development of malignancy. One of the cruder assessments of genetic risk is the family history. Long before DNA was understood, it was clear that malignancies of certain types seem to occur more frequently in certain families. Today, a combination of better genetic understanding coupled with family history analysis can be very important. It is well known, for example, that certain breast, ovarian and other gynecologic cancers are associated with both genetic defects and family history, even when those defects are not understood. Women who do have a family history of any of these malignancies should tell their physicians.
Cancer research is ongoing and from all directions, though it is an incredibly complex and diabolical set of diseases. Cancer cells change in ways that often make them resistant to treatments, despite the best efforts. That said, treatments are increasingly effective at managing even the most difficult malignancies, so even if a cure is not possible, an increased quality of life is almost always possible. The most typical gynecologic pelvic malignancies remain curable through increasingly less invasive means and the use of minimally invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy, allow patients to have curative surgery, making recovery easier. Radiation therapy is increasingly more precise, minimizing side effects without reducing overall effectiveness. There also is great optimism about better therapies through both biological agents and new genetic approaches, which may well be standards of care in the next five years.