Some people are confused about the differences between ovarian cancer and cervical cancer, and may even think that they are the same, or similar diseases. While they are both gynecologic cancers, they are distinguished by several differences.
They occur in different parts of the female reproductive system: cervical cancer is found in the cervix, which is the narrow, lower part of the uterus where it connects to the upper end of the vagina; ovarian cancer occurs in the ovaries, which are reproductive organs on each side of the uterus in the lower abdomen.
The confusion may be due, in part, to some similar symptoms shared between the two gynecologic cancers. Both ovarian cancer and cervical cancer can cause vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain, but the rest of the symptoms differ.
Cervical cancer symptoms also include increased vaginal discharge and pain during sex.
Ovarian cancer is a very complex disease with symptoms that are more vague and not always gynecologic: a swollen or bloated abdomen; persistent pressure or pain in the abdomen or pelvis; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; urinary urgency or frequency; and a change in bowel habits with new onset constipation and/or diarrhea. For more details about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, please click here.
Further confusion may be due to a common misunderstanding regarding the Pap test. The Pap test, which is part of a routine pelvic exam, is an effective diagostic tool for ob/gyn physicians to detect cervical cancer, but it does not detect ovarian cancer. Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that can be prevented with routine screening. Currently, there is no screening method for ovarian cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011, 12,710 women will find out they have invasive cervical cancer, and 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer.
For detailed information about cervical cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.