There are many risk factors associated with various types of gynecological cancer. Having a family history of cancer, for example, is often a risk factor. Not giving birth during your lifetime can also increase your risk of certain types of cancer. If you have made the decision to not become a mother or are unable to get pregnant, it’s important to be aware of the types of cancer which you are at a higher risk for.
Endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer, is more common among women who do not have babies. This is thought to be due to a higher level of the hormone progesterone among women who never give birth. Irregular ovulation among women with fertility problems is also thought to be a cause of cancer. Symptoms of endometrial cancer include vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause, long periods, bleeding or spotting between periods, bloody vaginal discharge, bleeding after sex, pain during sexual intercourse and unexplained weight loss.
Women who have fertility problems, and ultimately irregular ovulation, are at a greater risk for ovarian cancer. Some research has also shown that fertility drugs could be linked to ovarian cancer, but it could be because these women have severe difficulties with becoming pregnant. Since the symptoms of ovarian cancer are very similar to that of urinary tract infections or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), many women do not realize that they have the condition. Symptoms to watch for include the frequent urge to urinate, pressure and/or bloating in the abdominal area, pelvic pain, nausea, gas, changes in appetite, pain during sexual intercourse and lower back pain.
While women who never give birth are at a greater risk for both endometrial and ovarian cancer, it is important to keep in mind that these types of cancer can affect any woman. Research has also shown that women who have fewer children are at a greater risk for ovarian cancer. The more children you have, the less likely you are to be diagnosed with cancer. If you make the decision to not have children or if you are unable to become pregnant, it is simply in your best interest to be aware of any unusual gynecological symptoms that you may experience. Even if your symptoms do not seem severe, it is in your best interest to talk to your doctor about them.
BBC News, “Late childbirth cuts cancer risk.”
MayoClinic.com, “Endometrial cancer – Risk factors.”
MayoClinic.com, “Ovarian cancer – Risk factors.”