Gynecologic cancer

Treatment

Today, people with gynecological cancer have better treatment options than they did even a few years ago. If detected in the precancerous stage, some conditions can be halted with a simple procedure.

Each individual's cancer is different. Your Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) care team will partner with you to find the treatment options that best align with your circumstances, preferences and beliefs. 

Precancerous A condition that may (or is likely to) become cancer. Also called premalignant. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Comprehensive treatment options

You will hear the word "biopsy" during the early stages of your diagnosis and treatment. Tissue samples from your cancer will be removed either in the clinic or during surgery and examined by a pathologist. SCCA has a dedicated pathologist who only works with patients who are receiving treatment for gynecologic cancer.

The examination of these tissues will show whether your cancer is likely to grow slowly or quickly, whether it is likely to respond to certain types of treatment, and whether it is likely to recur. The treatment your care team recommends will depend on the stage of your cancer as determined by your biopsy.

Most of the people who come to us for gynecologic cancer care will be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or some combination of these treatment options if their cancer has spread.

Your care team may also recommend that you consider participating in a clinical trial.

Biopsy The removal of a sample of tissue or fluid that is examined to see whether cancer is present. This may be done with a large needle or through surgical removal of tissue or fluids. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Recur To come back. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.
Dr. Barbara Goff discusses advanced gynecologic cancer therapies at SCCA.

Your first visit

Before your first visit your care team will review your pathology slides (tissue samples from biopsies) and any scans or tests you have already had. If you do not live in or near Seattle, we may ask your referring provider to arrange for additional tests or scans so that these results are available before your appointment.

During your first visit you will meet with your oncologist, who will ask you questions about your medical history and your current symptoms. This will be followed by a physical exam, including a pelvic exam.

After the appointment with your oncologist you will participate in a conference with your oncologist and other members of your care team to discuss a treatment plan. This portion of the visit usually lasts two to three hours. 

We recommend that you bring a friend or family member with you to your appointments.

Where you will be seen

There are several clinics within SCCA and its partner organization UW Medicine where you might be seen, depending on your diagnosis or suspected diagnosis.

Four out of five of our patients require surgery, and many require additional treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery for patients who are being treated for gynecologic cancer at SCCA takes place at University of Washington Medical Center. 

Outpatient chemotherapy and radiation treatments may be done at either the SCCA clinic or UW Medical Center. If you are an out-of-town patient, it may be possible for you to have your surgery in Seattle but have your chemotherapy or radiation treatments closer to home.

Routine gynecologic exams without an increased risk of cancer or a cancer diagnosis are referred to the Women's Health Care Center at UW Medical Center–Roosevelt or the Women's Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. These clinics are part of UW Medicine and treat individuals with precancerous conditions such as dysplasia and perform procedures such as cryosurgery and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP).
 

Biopsy The removal of a sample of tissue or fluid that is examined to see whether cancer is present. This may be done with a large needle or through surgical removal of tissue or fluids. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment, such as treating cancer with radiation. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation. Precancerous A condition that may (or is likely to) become cancer. Also called premalignant. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends.