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Providence Gynecologic Oncology Program
Providence Gynecologic Oncology Program
At Providence, we know that being diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer can feel overwhelming. We’re here to support you through every stage of your condition – from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up. Our Gynecologic Oncology Program has everything you need, including:
- A gynecologic oncologist who specializes in treating gynecologic cancers leads your care team. They guide you through all your treatment. Gynecologic oncologists are trained to perform gynecologic surgery and to give therapies to the entire body (systemic) or a specific area (targeted). Examples include chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
- You also have support from expert oncology nurses, radiation oncologists, fellowship-trained pathologists, genetic-risk specialists, oncology social workers, integrative medicine providers, oncology dieticians, clinical trial nurses and patient navigators.
- Access to the newest research. We work with the Providence Earle A. Chiles Research Institute located in Portland, Oregon to bring you the latest treatment options and clinical trial offerings. You always receive the most advanced care.
- Your care team works with you to find the right treatment plan and guides you every step of the way. They also support you during follow-up for the long term.
- We offer a full range of gynecologic services close to you, so you can receive the treatment you need in one place.
We provide specialized care for patients with suspected or known gynecologic cancers or complex pre-cancerous conditions. Find out if you’re at risk for ovarian cancer.
Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive system. We treat:
- Uterine cancer (or endometrial cancer/endometrial carcinoma)
- Ovarian cancer/ovarian tumors
- Fallopian tube cancer
- Primary peritoneal cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia
- Uterine sarcoma
We also treat conditions in a woman’s reproductive system that are not yet cancer but may become cancer:
- Complex pelvic masses
- Dysplasia (abnormal cells that may be pre-cancerous)
- Cervical dysplasia
- Vaginal dysplasia
- Vulvar dysplasia
- Endometrial hyperplasia/neoplasia
- Post-menopausal bleeding
- Complex gynecologic surgical conditions
Treatments for gynecologic cancers can vary. Cervical cancer treatment often looks different than treatment of vulvar cancer or endometrial cancer, for example. The same treatment also doesn’t always benefit every patient. So, we work together with you to personalize your treatment plan.
Along with treatment, the Gynecologic Oncology Program also offers:
- Gynecologic pathology
- Genetic risk assessments
- Long-term follow-up care
- Oncology nutrition
- Support services, including social work and peer support
Patients who participate in clinical trials often gain access to promising treatments. They also help others by improving and advancing medical care. View the latest clinical trial offerings.
Genomic sequencing looks at your tumor’s DNA, so your care team can understand the unique mutations. This helps determine what treatments may work the best.
Providence offers multiple types of radiation therapy that target tumors. The most common methods of radiation therapy for gynecologic cancers include external beam radiation therapy and vaginal brachytherapy.
Surgery is often an important part of treatment for gynecologic cancers. Your gynecologic oncologist will perform the surgery and help determine the best surgical method for you:
- Minimally invasive surgery: For the most common gynecologic cancer, endometrial cancer, surgery is often the only treatment required. We perform over 95% of endometrial cancer surgeries using minimally invasive techniques and robotic surgery.
Sentinel lymph node mapping: Most people with endometrial cancer also can have sentinel lymph node mapping. This precise technique allows us to remove fewer lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread to other lymph nodes and organs. It has been shown to reduce the risk of lymphedema, a chronic condition of swelling in the legs or groin.
We also use sentinel lymph node mapping for vulvar cancer, where the most common treatment involves removing the vulvar tumor.
- Traditional surgery: For some conditions, a minimally invasive approach is unsafe or impractical. Treatment for most ovarian cancers typically requires a larger incision to ensure that we remove all the cancer.
Chemotherapies, targeted therapies, hormonal therapies and immunotherapies are systemic therapies that can be used together or separately. These therapies spread throughout the body to treat the cancer cells. Drugs may be injected into a vein or taken by mouth to enter the bloodstream and treat the cancer. Providence has been developing new immunotherapy treatments for over 25 years.
Each type of gynecologic cancer has unique symptoms and risk factors. It’s important to understand your risk for cancer, as well as how to reduce your risk. Our team is here to offer guidance and answer any questions.
Some cancers are caused by your environment or lifestyle. Others are caused by genetics – genes you inherit from your family. With gynecologic cancers, having an immediate family member (mom, sister, aunt or grandma) with this type of cancer may increase your risk. Your doctor can help you understand your risk level. They may even suggest genetic testing.
Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer with an effective routine screening test. It’s called the Pap test or Pap smear. Screenings for cervical cancer help detect abnormal cells or changes in your cervix that may develop into cancer. The goal is to address these changes before they become cancer.
Your gynecologist can also test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers, vaginal cancers and vulvar cancers. The HPV vaccine protects against HPV to reduce your risk of these types of cancer.
A helpful way to detect gynecologic cancers is to pay attention to your body and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes, such as:
- Vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause. You should discuss any amount of bleeding after menopause with your doctor.
- Heavy periods, bleeding between periods and bleeding during or after intercourse if you have not yet gone through menopause
- Abnormal discharge
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in periods or bleeding between periods
- Pain, itching, discomfort or physical changes to the vulva area
- Pain in the back or belly (abdomen)
- Pain or pressure in the pelvis area
Providence Cancer Institute is home to the largest gynecologic cancer research program in Oregon and one of the largest in the Northwest. The Earle A. Chiles Research Institute is the research arm of Providence Cancer Institute. It is a Providence Center of Excellence for precision immune-oncology and cellular therapy. Our team of researchers work directly with your doctors and care team to find clinical trials that are best suited to treat your cancer. We look at the stage and the genetic make-up of your cancer to determine which trials could be most effective.
Clinical trials are research studies that test whether new medical treatments, devices or plans are safe and effective. Patients who volunteer for clinical trials play an active role in their own health care. They often gain access to the most cutting-edge therapies. They also help others by improving and advancing medical care.
Learn more about some of the clinical trials available to patients with gynecologic cancers.
Jane, age 78, went through menopause nearly 30 years ago. So, when she noticed spotting, she decided to ask her doctor. She’s grateful she did – she ended up having a cancerous tumor in her uterus.
Learn more about Jane’s story and what gynecologic oncologist Cassandra Niemi, M.D. has to say about cancer warning signs after menopause.
Researchers from Providence Cancer Institute want to see if survival rates improve for patients with some types of gynecologic cancers when they receive a combination of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) and immunotherapy.
Learn more from Christopher Darus, M.D. about the OVATION 2 clinical trial. It may be an option for you.
Christopher Darus, M.D., medical director of the Providence Gynecologic Oncology Program, explains why some cancers are becoming less common while other cancers are increasing.
Learn about prevention, warning signs and treatment.