Female Reproductive Cancer | Cancer


Female Reproductive System Cancer

At UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, you will benefit from the latest research and novel treatments. All of your specialists work together to develop personalized therapies tailored to you.

Medically reviewed by Rebecca Brooks, M.D. on Aug. 21, 2023.

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Cutting-Edge Care and Treatments

At UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, our gynecologic oncologists work as a team to diagnose and treat complex cancers. U.S. News & World Report ranks UC Davis Health’s ovarian cancer surgery and uterine cancer surgery as high performing. We use the most advanced technology and therapies for the best possible outcomes. 


What Are Gynecologic Cancers?

Gynecologic cancers occur in a person’s reproductive organs. Types of female reproductive system cancers include: 

Reproductive cancers often go undetected and may spread to other areas of the body if not treated. 


Symptoms of Female Reproductive Cancers

Many female reproductive cancers have changing symptoms or no symptoms. Some may not have symptoms until they’re advanced.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of reproductive cancers in women include:

  • Burning, itching, pain, rash, skin changes or sores on or around your vulva
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as bloating or constipation, and not being able to eat a full amount or getting full quickly
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding that isn’t normal for you
  • Long periods of time without periods if you have not reached menopause
  • Pain, pressure or swelling in your abdomen (belly)
  • Pelvic pain or pain during sex
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or not related to menstruation, especially after menopause

Emergency Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, get medical care right away or call 911:

  • Severe vaginal bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain

Causes of Reproductive Cancers in Women

Like other cancers, gynecologic cancers occur when abnormal cells multiply rapidly. Sometimes the causes of female reproductive cancers are unknown.


Up to 10% of women with ovarian cancer and 3% of women with breast cancers have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with MSH6, MSH2, PM2 and MLH1 genes mutations have a higher risk of endometrial cancer. If you have these mutations, you may be a candidate for interventions that decrease your risk of gynecological cancer.

Learn about our hereditary cancer program
HPV Infection

Some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, for which there is now a vaccine available.


Risk Factors for Gynecologic Cancers

Risk factors vary depending on the type of cancer.


Hormone exposure may raise the risk of some gynecologic cancers. For example, estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms can result in endometrial cancer. Other factors that may increase your risk include having prolonged irregular periods, late menopause or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Family History and Genetics

Having a first-degree family member or multiple family members with ovarian cancer, premenopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or colorectal cancer may raise your risk of some of these cancers. Learn about our hereditary cancer program.


Your risk of gynecologic cancers increases with age.


Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can raise your risk of cervical and uterine cancers.


Having extra body fat puts you four times more at risk of uterine cancer.


Having no pregnancies raises your risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.


Diagnosing Female Reproductive Cancers

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that has a specific screening test (Pap test and/or HPV testing). We played a role in developing a liquid Pap test for cervical cancer. For this test, your physician takes a sample from your cervix to analyze.

A pelvic exam reveals signs of other gynecologic cancers. During this exam, your physician feels for lumps or other problems with your uterus and ovaries. Your physician also visually inspects your vulva, vagina and cervix. Your physician also may do a rectal exam to feel the space between your uterus and your rectum, where disease can also spread.

If you have potential signs of cancer during a pelvic exam, you may need one or more tests. These may include:

  • Biopsy: A specialist takes a sample of tissue to examine it for cancer cells.
  • CA 125 test: A blood test that measures cancer antigen 125. High amounts of this protein may indicate cancer, although this can also be elevated in many noncancerous conditions. This test is typically done to evaluate a suspicious ovarian mass rather than general screening.
  • CT scan: An imaging test that helps your provider see tumors or abnormal areas inside your body.
  • Ultrasound: An imaging test that uses sound waves to show where there may be tumors inside your body.
  • PET scan: An imaging test that shows how active an area of abnormality is.
  • MRI: An imaging test that can show the shape and possible problems with your cervix, uterus and ovaries.

Gynecologic Cancer Treatments at UC Davis Health

At UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, our gynecologic oncology specialists work closely with researchers and offer the most current and cutting-edge cancer treatments. You may be eligible to enroll in a clinical trial to try new types of biologic and targeted novel therapies.

Our comprehensive team includes physicians with expertise specifically in gynecologic cancer surgery, pathology, chemotherapy, radiation and supportive care. Our expertise also includes fertility-sparing methods that enable you to become pregnant after completing treatment.

You are unique, and so is your cancer. Every cancer treatment plan is different at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center because we tailor therapies to each person. Your peace of mind matters to us, so we take time to explain recommendations and answer questions.

Cancer treatment may include multiple types of therapies.

Biologics, Immunotherapy and Other Targeted Therapies

There are new oral and IV therapies that attack cancer in different ways than traditional chemotherapy. Your oncologist will discuss these options with you and work with you to choose the right treatment.


Chemotherapy (chemo) uses drugs that stop cancer cell growth. Our infusion center provides a peaceful, supportive environment to receive intravenous (IV) chemotherapy.

Hormone Therapy

Certain hormones can cause some cancers to grow. For these types of cancers, you may need hormone therapy drugs to block certain hormones.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation destroys cancer cells. For external treatment, a machine emits radiation directly on the cancerous area. Internal radiation treatments use short doses of radioactive medicine at the location of the cancer to kill it directly. Learn about our Department of Radiation Oncology.


A surgical oncologist (cancer surgeon) removes cancerous organs or tissue. We use minimally invasive techniques, such as gynecologic robotic surgery, that involve tiny incisions for a quicker recovery. Our precise, specialized procedures leave intact as much healthy tissue as possible.

Supportive Care

Supportive oncology services help you feel your best during and after gynecologic cancer treatment. Our offerings include nutrition counseling, emotional support, fertility preservation services and a survivorship clinic.


Preventing Reproductive Cancers in Women

While not all gynecologic cancers are preventable, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

You can help reduce your risk by eating a nutritious diet, staying at a healthy weight, exercising regularly and not smoking.

Stay Alert

Keep up with your yearly pelvic exams, which help detect changes in your reproductive organs. Knowing the early warning signs of reproductive cancers, such as irregular bleeding or abdominal pain, is also important.

Use Protection

Use condoms during sexual activity to reduce your risk of HPV transmission.

"The BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genes," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/breast_ovarian_cancer/genes_hboc.htm 

"Obesity and Cancer," NIH National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet 

Average age is

50For new cervical cancer diagnoses

Survivors of endometrial cancer

600KIn the U.S.

American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer
American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Endometrial Cancer

Request an Appointment

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