Source: University of Missouri Health System

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The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) has designated September as Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to draw attention to the importance of early detection and prevention.

Gynecologic cancers include all cancers of the female reproductive tract. This means ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal, vulvar, or tubal cancer. These cancers don't have to be fatal. Early detection and education tools, such as Pap tests and risk assessment tests, not only can detect them, but also can help prevent them.

Here are four simple ways to take control of your gynecologic health. By doing this, you can protect your health and your life. Here's a way to remember the goals of Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM):

G: Get to know your family history.

Learn about your family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, and colon cancers. The genetic risk for ovarian cancer can be passed on to you through either your mother or father. This makes both family histories equally important. Familial risk is the most significant risk factor for ovarian cancer. Alert your gynecologist about your family history of cancer so you can take preventive steps.

C: Conduct an online risk assessment.

Take 15 minutes out of your day to determine your risk of developing one of these cancers. Visit the Women's Cancer Network website (http://www.wcn.org). Take the free, personalized assessment of your risk of developing cervical, ovarian, uterine and breast cancer. The WCN website also has information on these cancers, resources for women who have been diagnosed with cancer, and information on cancer experts.

A: Ask questions; educate yourself about gynecologic cancer.

Educate yourself. Learn the warning signs of these cancers. Know your body. This knowledge is an important step to protecting your health and well-being.

M: Make an appointment for your annual gynecologic exam and cancer screening tests.

Get an annual gynecologic exam, no matter what your age. Some of these cancers have no symptoms. They can be found only through regular visits to your gynecologist. This regular healthcare routine is critical to maintaining your health.

The Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) is a nonprofit, international organization made up of obstetricians and gynecologists who specialize in these cancers. Its purpose is to improve the care of women with gynecologic cancer, to raise the standards of practice, and to encourage research.

The SGO established the GCF in 1992 as a nonprofit charitable organization, and as an extension of SGO's commitment to the health and well-being of women. Its goal is to raise funds for philanthropic programs that benefit women who have, or who are at risk of developing, these cancers.

SOURCE: University of Missouri Health System

(WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at http://www.whatdoctorsknow.com.)

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