By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE, Md.(WJZ) — September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness month, and medical professionals are working to expand awareness and reduce stigma surrounding what are commonly known as “below the belt cancers.”

Dr. Stephanie L. Wethington is a gynecologic oncologist and Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Wethington says estimated statistics from the American Cancer Society show 110,070 women would be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer and more than 32,000 will died from the disease in 2018.

gynonc wethington 2018 2 Md. Doctor Speaks About Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Dr. Stephanie L. Wethington

The cancers include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer. Dr. Wethington says more women should be proactive in their care.

“Women tend to be shy about their diseases because it sits below the belt,” says Dr. Wethington.

When asked why is that, Dr. Wethington said “I think we still have a certain shyness about our bodies and there still isn’t a lot of awareness about these conditions. Because people are not aware, they don’t realize that they are actually quite common and they most likely know someone who is affected.”

In addition to scheduling annual physicals with a gynecologist, Dr. Wethington says women need to pay attention to any abnormal symptoms their body may exhibit.

“The biggest danger is because there is a lack of awareness, women don’t realize the symptom they need to be looking for,” says Dr. Wethington.

Dr. Wethington says post-menopausal women are at highest risk, but younger women should also take precautions.

There are numerous educational resources such as the Foundation for Women’s CancerThe American Cancer SocietyThe Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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