What Do You Know About Reproductive Cancers?
Cancer can strike any part of the reproductive system, but research has led to better diagnoses, treatments, and a lower chance of death for many of these cancers.
Most testicular cancers are found by men on their own. Talk with your doctor about whether you should do a testicular self-exam and how often you should do it. Some doctors recommend that all men do monthly testicular self-exams after puberty. If you do one, the best time is during or right after a shower or bath, when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. Men should see a doctor if they notice any of the following symptoms:
- A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
- Any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin (the area where the thigh meets the abdomen)
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
These symptoms can be caused by cancer or by other conditions. It is important to see a doctor to find out the cause of any symptoms.
There are no symptoms in the early stages. That's why it's important for men at risk for developing prostate cancer to talk with their healthcare provider about the benefits of screening. One or both of these screening tests may be used to detect prostate abnormalities: a digital rectal exam and a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). High levels of PSA can be caused by cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an infection. Symptoms of later-stage prostate cancer include:
- A need to urinate often, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Inability to urinate
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
Any of these symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious health problems, such as BPH or an infection. A man who has symptoms like these should see his healthcare provider.
Factors that put a woman at risk of developing ovarian cancer are:
- Family history. Having a mother, daughter, or sister with the disease puts you at increased risk.
- Age. Most ovarian cancer occurs after age 50, with the highest risk after age 60.
- Childbearing. Women who have never had children are more likely to develop this cancer.
- Personal history. Women who have had breast, uterine, rectum, or colon cancer may have a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer.
Other possible factors include taking fertility medicines. These may slightly increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Talc may be a risk factor. Some studies suggest that women who use talc in the genital area for many years may be at risk. Hormone therapy may also raise risk. Some studies suggest that women who use HT after menopause may have a slightly increased risk. Having one or more of the risk factors mentioned here does not mean that a woman is sure to develop ovarian cancer, but the chance may be higher than average.
Other symptoms include:
- General abdominal discomfort, pain, or both. Discomfort may include gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, or cramps.
- Feeling tired all the time
- Frequent urination
- Feeling of fullness even after a light meal
- Weight gain or loss with no know reason.
Cancer of the uterus occurs mostly in women older than 50. Other risk factors for uterine cancer are:
- Endometrial hyperplasia
- Hormone therapy. Women who use estrogen and progesterone have an increased risk for this cancer. Women using estrogen alone having the highest risk.
- Obesity and related conditions. The body makes estrogen in fatty tissue, so obese women have higher estrogen levels, putting them at increased risk for cancer.
- Tamoxifen. The risk appears to be linked to the estrogen-like effect of this medicine, which is used to prevent or treat breast cancer.
- Race. White American women are at higher risk than African-American women.
- Colorectal cancer. Women who have an inherited form of this cancer have a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
Other risk factors are related to how long a woman's body is exposed to estrogen. Women who have no children, begin menstruation at a very young age, or enter menopause late in life are exposed to estrogen longer and have a higher risk.