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Pelvic Cancer

What is pelvic cancer?


Pelvic cancer refers to a variety of cancers involving the structures and organs in the pelvis.
Your pelvic area is the lower portion of the trunk of your body. It contains the pelvic bones,
bladder, rectum, and reproductive organs.
Pelvic cancers that can affect both sexes include bladder cancer, anal cancer, rectal cancer,
chondrosarcoma (cancer of the cartilage), and osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone). Pelvic
cancer can also occur from the spread or metastasis of other cancers from different areas of
the body.
Because the pelvic area contains the reproductive organs, there are pelvic cancers that can
affect men and women separately. For men, this includes prostate and testicular cancer. For
women, pelvic cancer can include cervical, ovarian, uterine or endometrial, vaginal, and
vulvar cancer.
Normally, old or damaged cells in your body will stop dividing and die before they can
become cancerous. Healthy young cells usually replace these cells. Cancer occurs when old
or damaged cells continue to divide and multiply uncontrollably. In pelvic cancer, the
malignancy or cancer develops in the structures or organs of the pelvic area.
Treatment and prognosis of pelvic cancer varies depending on the type of cancer and the
stage of advancement; your age, medical history, and coexisting conditions or diseases; and
other factors. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and
chemotherapy. In general, diagnosis and treatment in an early stage of development, before
cancer cells have spread, offers the best prognosis for a complete cure.
Pelvic cancer can lead to life-threatening complications and can be fatal, especially left
undetected and untreated. Seeking regular medical care offers the best chances of
discovering pelvic cancer in its earliest, most curable stage, often before symptoms are
present. If you have pelvic cancer, following your treatment plan may help reduce your risk
of serious complications.
Symptoms
What are the symptoms of pelvic cancer?
Symptoms of pelvic cancer vary depending on the type of cancer.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is a malignancy of the cervix, the organ that provides an opening between the
vagina and the uterus. Generally, cervical cancer produces no symptoms in its earliest stages.
Symptoms that may indicate a more advanced stage include the following:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs after sex, after menopause, or between
menstrual periods

Foul-smelling, bloody or unusual vaginal discharge

Lower back pain

Pain during sexual intercourse

Pelvic pain

Periods that are longer or heavier than usual

Symptoms of ovarian cancer


Ovarian cancer is a malignancy in one or both ovaries. Ovaries contain a woman's eggs and
produce female hormones. Generally, ovarian cancer produces no symptoms in its earliest
stages. When symptoms do occur, they may mimic symptoms of other diseases and may
indicate a more advanced stage. Symptoms may include:

Abdominal bloating

Constipation

Diarrhea

Frequent urination or urgent need to urinate

Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly after eating a small amount of food

Nausea

Pelvic pain

Symptoms of uterine or endometrial cancer


Endometrial cancer is a malignancy of the lining of the uterus, the pear-shaped organ where a
fetus grows during pregnancy. The primary symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal
bleeding that occurs after menopause, between menstrual periods, or as an excessively heavy
menstrual period.
Other symptoms may include:

Pelvic pain or cramping, similar to menstrual pain

Rapidly growing fibroids and a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area

Unusual vaginal discharge that is watery and pink, blood-tinged, or brown in color
and foul-smelling

Symptoms of vaginal and vulvar cancer


Vaginal cancer is a malignancy of the vaginal canal. Vulvar cancer is a malignancy of the
vulva or outer folds of skin that surround the vaginal opening. Symptoms of these cancers
may include:

Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding

Blood in the urine or stool

Changes in the color of the vulva

Constipation

Frequent urination

Itching, burning or bleeding vulva

Pelvic or abdominal pain, especially with sexual intercourse

Sores, lumps or ulcers on the vulva

Symptoms of prostate cancer


Prostate cancer is a malignancy of the prostate gland, which is part of a mans reproductive
system. It is a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the urethra (tube that carries urine and semen
out of the body) inside a mans pelvis. Symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

Blood in the urine or semen

Bone pain, which may indicate a more advanced stage of cancer

Difficulty starting to urinate or straining to urinate

Dribbling or leaking of urine

Urine stream that is slow or starts and stops

Symptoms of testicular cancer


Testicular cancer is a malignancy of the testicles, which are the male reproductive glands
located in the scrotum. Symptoms of testicular cancer may include:

Enlargement, swelling, or change in the feel of a testicle

Growth of breast tissue (gynecomastia)

Lump in a testicle

Pain in the lower back or lower abdomen

Pain, discomfort, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum

Blood in the stool or bleeding from the anus

Changes in bowel habits

Itching and discharge from the anus

Narrow stool

Pain or lumps in the anus

Pelvic or abdominal pain

Symptoms of anal and rectal cancer


Anal cancer is a malignancy of the anus, which is the opening that allows the passage of
stool. Rectal cancer is a malignancy of the rectum, the final portion of the large intestine that
holds stool for elimination. Symptoms of anal and rectal cancer may include:

Blood in the stool or bleeding from the anus

Changes in bowel habits

Itching and discharge from the anus

Narrow stool

Pain or lumps in the anus

Pelvic or abdominal pain

Symptoms of bladder cancer


Bladder cancer is a malignancy of the bladder, which is the part of your urinary system that
stores urine. Symptoms of bladder cancer may include:

Abdominal or pelvic pain or tenderness

Blood in the urine

Bone pain

Fatigue

Frequent, urgent or painful urination

Incontinence

Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of chondrosarcoma and osteosarcoma


Chondrosarcoma (cancer of the cartilage) and osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone) are cancers
that occur most often in the pelvis, as well as the upper leg and shoulder. The most common
symptom of these cancers is bone pain or swelling in the pelvic area.

Causes
What causes pelvic cancer?
Normally cells in your body that are old or damaged will stop dividing and die before they
can become cancerous. Healthy young cells usually replace these cells. Pelvic cancer occurs
when old or damaged cells to continue to divide and multiply uncontrollably. What causes
this to happen is not known for most cancers.
Some cancers have more definite causes. For example, certain types of cancers, such as
ovarian cancer, have been linked to mutations of specific genes. Cervical cancer is an
example of a cancer that is most often caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
HPV, which can also cause genital warts, is spread through sexual contact and often has no
symptoms. HPV has also been linked to vaginal, vulvar and anal cancer.
What are the risk factors for pelvic cancer?
A number of factors may increase your chances of developing pelvic cancer. Not all people
with risk factors will develop pelvic cancer, and some people who do not have risk factors
will develop pelvic cancer. Risk factors include:

Age older than 50 years

Exposure to certain medications, chemicals, or environmental toxins

HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases

Multiple sex partners or sex with a partner who has had multiple sex partners or has
been exposed to HPV

Presence of breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), which
also increases the risk of developing breast cancer

Radiation treatment in the pelvic area

Sexual activity at a young age

Smoking

Unprotected sex

Reducing your risk of pelvic cancer


You can lower your risk of pelvic cancer by:

Abstaining from sexual activity or practicing safer sex through a mutually


monogamous (only one sexual partner) relationship and by using condoms

Getting vaccinated with Gardasil or Cervarix, which provides protection from the
strains of HPV that can cause many pelvic cancers

Having regular screening tests, as recommended by your healthcare provider

Performing self-examinations, as recommended by your healthcare provider

Quitting smoking

Treatments
How is pelvic cancer treated?
Treatment of pelvic cancer begins with seeking regular, routine medical care throughout your
life. Regular medical care allows your healthcare provider to best evaluate your risks of
developing pelvic cancer and perform routine screening measures, diagnostic testing, and
other assessments as needed. These measures greatly increase the chances of detecting pelvic
cancer in its earliest, most curable stage.
The goal of pelvic cancer treatment is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a
complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the
disease in your body, although it may recur or relapse later. Pelvic cancer treatment plans use
a multifaceted approach. They are individualized based on the type and stage of the disease,
your age, your medical history, and any coexisting diseases or conditions.
Treatment of pelvic cancer may include a combination of the following:

Chemotherapy

Dietary counseling to help people with cancer maintain their strength and nutritional
status

Hormone therapy

Pain medications

Participation in a clinical trial to test promising new therapies and treatments

Physical therapy to help strengthen the body, increase alertness, reduce fatigue, and
improve functional ability during and after cancer treatment

Radiation therapy

Surgery to remove any well-defined tumors or only part of the affected organ or
structure

Surgery to remove the entire organ or structure, nearby lymph nodes, and abdominal
tissues as needed

Complementary treatments
Complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with pelvic cancer and its
treatments. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in
conjunction with traditional medical treatments. They are not meant to substitute for full
medical care. Complementary treatments may include:

Acupuncture

Massage therapy

Yoga

Hospice care
If pelvic cancer has progressed to an advanced stage and has become unresponsive to
treatment, the goal of treatment shifts from curing the disease to helping the person with
cancer live as fully and comfortably as possible. Hospice care involves medically controlling
pain and other symptoms, while providing psychological and spiritual support for the patient
and family.
What are the potential complications of pelvic cancer?
Complications of pelvic cancer are life threatening. Complications are caused by the
metastasis or spread of the cancer to other tissues and organs, such as the lymph nodes, lungs,
liver, and intestines. With time, the spread of cancer interferes with organ function and vital
body processes. You can best treat pelvic cancer and lower your risk or delay the
development of complications by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare team
design specifically for you.

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