Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Gynecologic Cancers

Several risk factors may increase your risk of many types of gynecologic cancers. Risk factors include:

  • Reproductive and menstrual history including never having children, starting your menstruation before age 12 and/or going through menopause after age 55
  • Diabetes
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Smoking
  • HIV infection or a weak immune system
  • Obesity
  • Previous history of breast or gynecologic cancer
  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Use of oral birth control and/or fertility drugs
  • Estrogen therapy
  • High-fat diet
  • Prior radiation to pelvic area


Regular visits to your gynecologist will help identify early signs of gynecologic cancer. During your pelvic exam, your physician will look for masses and irregularities on the cervix, uterus, ovaries, vagina and vulva. A Pap test will check for the presence of cancer cells on the cervix.

If cancer is suspected, your physician may order diagnostic imaging tests, including:

Your physician may use additional methods to screen or diagnose gynecological cancer, including:

  • Colposcopy: Viewing the cervix and vagina with a lighted, magnifying lens.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): Dilating the cervix so abnormal tissue can be removed from the cervical canal and uterine lining.
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): Using a heated wire loop to remove cells and tissue.
  • Biopsy: Taking a small sample of tissue during procedures.
  • Laparoscopy: Using a thin, lighted tube inserted through a small incision in the lower abdomen to send images to a video monitor.
  • CA-125, HE4 or OVA 1 blood tests: Testing your blood for biomarkers that are associated with ovarian cancer.