Finding out that you are considered at high risk for gynecologic cancer can come as surprising news for anyone. The Hoag Gynecologic Cancer Team is here to support you from the time when you first meet with your doctor through diagnosis, treatment and beyond, providing the care and compassion you need during a cancer journey.

Definition of high risk

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease like cancer. Each type of gynecologic cancer has different risk factors. If you have a combination of risk factors, you could be considered to be at “high risk” for developing a certain type of gynecologic cancer. Your doctor will be able to determine your level of risk for a particular cancer, and whether you fall into the category of high risk.

Who is high risk?

Individuals are considered high risk for each of the following gynecologic cancers based on a combination of risk factors:

Cervical cancer:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Smoking
  • Weakened immune system (having the HIV virus can increase your risk)
  • DES (If your mother took the drug diethylstilbestrol while she was pregnant, you are at a greater risk)
  • Socioeconomic status (oftentimes women with low incomes do not have access to healthcare, preventing regular screenings and increasing their risk)

Ovarian cancer:

  • Risk increases with age, especially around the time of menopause
  • Family history of epithelial ovarian cancer
  • Premenopausal breast cancer and/or male breast cancer
  • Potentially families affected by colon and endometrial cancer

Uterine cancer:

  • Use of estrogen without progesterone
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Use of tamoxifen
  • Menopause at a later age (after age 52)
  • Obesity
  • Genetics (individuals in families with a high frequency of uterine, colon and ovarian cancer may have a higher risk)

Vaginal cancer:

  • HPV infection
  • Smoking
  • Age 50 and older
  • Prior treatment for cervical or vulvar cancer
  • DES (daughters of women who took DES while pregnant are at increased risk)

Vulvar cancer:

  • HPV infection (in young people)
  • Chronic vulvar irritation
  • Smoking
  • HIV infection