Get Screened for Gynecologic Cancers

This year, more than 106,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer according to the National Cancer Institute. More than one-third of those will die from that cancer.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time to spotlight the risks, tips for prevention, and treatment of cancers that affect the female reproductive system. That includes ovarian, cervical, uterine (endometrial), vaginal, and vulvar cancers. While each cancer is unique, there's a common thread that binds them all — the power of early detection through regular screenings. Here’s what to know about the five types of gynecologic cancers, and how to stay safe.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer primarily affects the cervix, or the lower part of the uterus. One of the most effective ways to detect cervical cancer early is through regular Pap smears or HPV tests. These tests can identify pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix, allowing for intervention before the disease progresses. Early detection significantly improves the chances of successful treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer rates have decreased dramatically due to increased screening and vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV).

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because it's difficult to detect in its early stages. However, routine pelvic exams and ultrasounds can help identify any areas of concern within the ovaries. While these screenings might not catch all cases, they can be crucial in detecting the disease at an earlier, more treatable stage. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition highlights the importance of knowing your body and recognizing symptoms like bloating, pelvic pain, and frequent urination.

Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer

Uterine cancer affects the lining of the uterus. Postmenopausal bleeding or spotting, abnormal vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain are potential symptoms. Regular screenings, such as transvaginal ultrasounds, endometrial biopsies, and dilation and curettage (D&C), can help in the early detection of uterine cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that the survival rate for localized uterine cancer is significantly higher than for more advanced stages.

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers

Vaginal and vulvar cancers are less common but still require attention. Symptoms might include vaginal bleeding after menopause, pain during intercourse, or changes in the skin color of the vulva. Routine pelvic exams are crucial for the detection of vaginal and vulvar cancers. Early diagnoses will help ensure better treatment outcomes.

The Importance of Screenings


  • Early Detection — Gynecologic cancers often show few symptoms in their early stages. Regular screenings can identify abnormal growths before they become cancerous, improving the chances of successful treatment and survival.
  • Improved Outcomes — Detecting cancer at an early stage allows for less invasive treatment options, reducing potential side effects, and helping to improve quality of life.
  • Empowerment — By undergoing regular screenings, you take control of your health and well-being. You're actively participating in preventive health care.

Get Screened

Gynecologic cancer screenings are powerful tools in the fight against these diseases. Your health matters, and early detection can be a lifesaver. Don't hesitate to discuss screening options with your health care provider. Your AltaMed physician may recommend additional screenings for you depending on your personal and family health histories.

Contact us for more information about the health screenings you need at (888) 499-9303.

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Health Care Services for Every Woman

Women’s health care matters. Whether you hope to one day start a family, or plan on being child-free for life, your reproductive well-being is vital to your overall health.

AltaMed understands this and provides a host of essential services and materials for you, regardless of your age, your stage in life, or your desire to be a parent. These resources are available in-person or online via telehealth appointments.

Reproductive Health Care

Your reproductive system is complex, and its health will impact the rest of your body. Unfortunately, reproductive disorders affect millions of Americans every year. Women bear the greatest burden during pregnancy, so the risk to their reproductive health is higher, particularly when there’s another body growing inside them.

Anyone with female reproductive organs should seriously consider getting cervical cancer screenings sometimes called Pap tests or Pap smears. These tests screen for abnormal cells on the cervix with the potential to lead to cervical cancer. These cell changes are caused by HPV, but the pap test does not detect HPV itself– more on that later.

Pap tests are often part of regular well-woman exams. How often you are tested for cervical cancer depends on your age, medical history, and previous results. Most people can wait until 25 to start getting tested, though you can get a Pap test every three years starting at 21. Once you reach 30, a Pap test and an HPV test should be taken every five years until 64. You may not need one anymore after that.

Testing for Sexual Health

Your body is your own, but sexual health is a vital component of reproductive health. AltaMed is committed to supporting your sexual health in a safe, confidential, and nonjudgmental environment. Your sexual health should not just be important to you, but your potential partners as well.

Some sexually transmitted infections have been shown to affect fertility if left untreated. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the leading causes of preventable infertility. Left alone, these infections can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease which may lead to permanent damage of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues potentially leading to infertility.

Even if you’re pregnant, you can still contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it’s important to get treatment to improve the chances for a safer pregnancy and delivery for both mom and baby. Problems during pregnancy like low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, or premature labor have been linked to untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Untreated gonorrhea has also been linked to miscarriages. Newborns passing through the birth canal can develop eye infections when exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea, and lung infections if exposed to chlamydia.

The Threat of HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, affecting 79 million Americans in their late teens and early 20s. HPV types are numerous, and HPV usually goes away without causing any health problems. When HPV lingers, the results can be genital warts and cancer.

A two-dose vaccine, ideally started at age 11, has become common practice to be given to patients, regardless of their gender. Adults ages 27- 45 who are not vaccinated and who have been sexually active may speak to their provider about receiving the vaccine. The vaccine is so effective that in just 10 years after it was recommended, certain HPV infections fell by 86% in girls ages 14-19, and 71% in women in their early 20s.

Women who are pregnant and have HPV can develop genital warts that will increase in number and size during pregnancy and could complicate a vaginal delivery. In rare instances, the mother’s infection has been linked to noncancerous growths in the newborn’s larynx.

Family Planning

Having a healthy reproductive system is vital no matter where life takes you. If you decide to build a family, the best time to do that is when you and your partner are ready. Planned pregnancies typically result in healthier babies and fewer medical problems for mom.

AltaMed can help with the development of a reproductive plan, offer counseling, provide pregnancy testing, birth control, and referrals to a fertility specialist. We are here for you so you can get ready for the changes that come with giving birth. In addition to in-person visits, AltaMed offers telehealth appointments for services that don’t require physical examinations.

It’s in Your Control

We’re committed to keeping women healthy at every stage of their lives, offering confidential information on birth control, safe sex, cervical cancer screenings, STI, and HIV tests and treatment. Call (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.


Helping Women Find Happiness

Women often find themselves under immense pressure as homemakers, mothers, caregivers, educators, nurturers, etc. By giving so much of themselves, they rarely have time to address their own emotional needs.

However, happiness is an essential aspect of our lives, and every woman deserves to feel joy and fulfillment. Still, life can sometimes feel overwhelming, and happiness may seem out of reach. Fortunately, there are simple things women can do to help themselves feel happier, both mentally and physically:

  • Prioritize self-care — Self-care is essential for maintaining good mental and physical health. That includes prioritizing self-care activities like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in physical activity. Taking care of yourself can help you feel better and reduce stress levels.
  • Connect with others — Social connections are essential for happiness and well-being. Connecting with friends, family, and community can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social connections can also provide emotional support and help you feel more engaged with the world around you.
  • Practice gratitude Gratitude is a powerful tool for increasing happiness. The CDC suggests focusing on the things you are thankful for, whether it's a good cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, or a supportive friend. Practicing gratitude can help you cultivate a more positive outlook and reduce stress levels.
  • Engage in mindfulness exercises Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or yoga, can help you feel more centered and focused. Mindfulness can reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall well-being. There are many resources available online for practicing mindfulness, such as guided meditations or online yoga classes.
  • Set goals and work toward them — Setting and achieving realistic goals can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Whether it's expanding your skills, starting a new hobby, or working toward a career move, setting goals can help you feel more motivated and confident.
  • Volunteer Volunteering can be a great way to feel connected to your community and make a positive impact. It provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills. It also gets you moving and releases dopamine which helps relieve stress. At the same time, you’re increasing social interaction and building a support system with people who have common interests.
  • Practice self-compassion Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with kindness and understanding. This is incredibly important, especially during difficult times. Instead of being self-critical or judgmental, try to be understanding and supportive of yourself.
  • Seek professional help If you're struggling with mental health issues, it's essential to seek professional help. There are many resources available for mental health treatment, such as therapy, medication, or support groups.

Your Happiness Matters

AltaMed is committed to your mental, as well as physical well-being. Our experienced staff of diverse mental health professionals can provide culturally relevant care in your language. They can help you with everything from stress relief to referrals for more serious mental health or substance abuse issues. Call (855) 425-1777 to learn more about our Behavioral Health Services.

Get Screened for Gynecologic Cancers