For many women, ob-gyns are their primary health care provider. It’s not uncommon for women to see their ob-gyn at least annually, and for good reason. Ob-gyns receive a comprehensive education in caring for women from adolescence through childbearing and into menopause. Our training includes care of both pregnant and non-pregnant women, surgery, pharmacology, and more.
Because we see our patients regularly, especially during their reproductive years, ob-gyns have the opportunity to build and maintain a strong patient-doctor relationship. We can observe patients when they’re healthy, establish a baseline of what’s normal, and potentially spot suspicious changes or health problems when they are most treatable.
When a patient reports out-of-the-ordinary changes and symptoms, an ob-gyn can perform diagnostic exams and tests to confirm the problem. He or she can treat changes that may lead to cancer and prevent cancer from ever developing. When invasive cancers of the female reproductive organs—cervix, ovary, uterus, vagina, or vulva—are diagnosed, ob-gyns will often consult with other ob-gyns with advanced training and experience, such as gynecologic oncologists. This can be especially helpful for cases that are thought to be more advanced.
Gynecologic oncologists are ob-gyns who have completed several additional years of training in surgery, treatment, and research on women’s cancers and received board certification in gynecologic oncology. They see patients with these cancers every day. Following diagnosis, gynecologic oncologists can perform the sometimes complicated surgical procedures (staging) necessary to improve a woman’s chances of controlling and beating cancer. They are experts in the timing and order of treatment and can also serve as the “traffic controllers” overseeing the coordination of nurses, primary care physicians, radiologists, and other health care professionals who will be involved in all aspects of the patient’s care.
Today, there are more than 1,000 board-certified gynecologic oncologists in the US. To learn more about these cancer specialists, visit the Society for Gynecologic Oncology website.
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