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Screening for Gynecologic Cancers

Gynecologic cancers are often detected through a series of screening exams.

  • Your doctor will first perform a pelvic exam to evaluate your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries and rectum.
  • During the pelvic exam, your doctor will gently scrape some cells from the cervix and vagina to examine under a microscope. This is called a Pap test.
  • If the Pap test is abnormal, your doctor may perform a test called a colposcopy to closely examine the cervix. Scraping cells from the cervical canal (endocervical curettage) may also be necessary.
  • A small sample of tissue may be taken from any suspicious area. This test is called a biopsy.
  • Occasionally, doctors need to examine a larger sample of cervical tissue. It is obtained during a procedure called conization or cone biopsy.
  • In some situations, your doctor may recommend an exam under anesthesia to better evaluate the extent of a cancer. Tests requiring anesthesia include examination of the bladder (cystoscopy) and rectum (sigmoidoscopy).
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding, a common symptom of uterine cancer, is usually evaluated by performing a dilatation and curettage, also called a D and C.
  • Your doctor may also ask for MRI, CT, PET or ultrasound scans of the abdomen and pelvis to better evaluate areas that cannot be directly viewed, such as the ovaries.