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Early Detection Important in Reproductive Cancers

Every hour, about 10 women in the United States are diagnosed with cancer of the reproductive organs. Gynecologic cancers, which include cancer of the ovaries, cervix, uterus, vulva and fallopian tubes, are the fourth-most common cancers in American women today. These cancers can strike women of any age - from teenagers to post-menopause.

September has been designated Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month nationwide and by Gov. Mike Easley in North Carolina. Teal lapel ribbons have been selected as a symbol of the observance.

"About one in every 20 women - mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, sisters and significant others - will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer sometime in their lives," said Samuel Lentz, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC).

Gynecologic cancers do not have to be fatal. Research has shown that with early detection and education tools, gynecologic cancers can be diagnosed early and can also be prevented, said Brigitte Miller, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at WFUBMC.

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month aims to educate women on four simple ways to take control of their gynecologic health.

1. Get to Know Your Family History. Women should learn about their parents'' family histories of breast, ovarian, uterine, colon and prostate cancers. The risk for ovarian cancer can be transmitted through either parent, making both family histories important. Alert your gynecologist to your family history so preventive steps can be taken.

2. Conduct an Online Risk Assessment. Log on to www.WCN.org to receive a free, personalized assessment of your risk for developing cervical, ovarian, uterine and breast cancer. Sponsored by the Women''s Cancer Network, the site also provides in-depth information on female cancers and the specialists who treat them.

3. Educate Yourself. Learn the warning signs of reproductive cancers: unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, a sore that does not heal, pain or pressure in the pelvic area, a persistent change in bowel or bladder habits, frequent indigestion or abdominal bloating and a thickening or lump that either causes pain or can be seen or felt.

4. Schedule Your Annual Exam. Women of all ages should have an annual gynecologic exam and PAP test. Some of the most common gynecologic cancers have no symptoms and can be detected only by regular visits to your physician.

WFUBMC physicians will present information on gynecologic cancer during September.

"Cancer Prevention for Women," 6 p.m., Sept. 11, BestHealth at Hanes Mall. Gynecologic oncologist Brigitte Miller, M.D., will discuss things women can do to prevent cancer, as well as the latest diagnostic tools for early detection. To register, call 716-2255.

"Ovarian Cancer: An Update on Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment," 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Sept. 8, Holiday Inn, Hanes Mall. Brigitte Miller, M.D., will be the featured speaker. To register, call Cancer Services Inc. at 760-9983.

For additional information about gynecologic cancer, call the Gyencologic Cancer Foundation''s information hotline, 800-444-4441; the National Cancer Institute, 800-422-6237; or the American Cancer Society, 800-227-2345.

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