Gynaecological Cancer

Dr. Noreen Gleeson

Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist & Pelvic Surgeon

Consultant Image

St. James’s Hospital (SJH) Gynaecological Cancer Care Centre is the largest provider in the Republic of Ireland of treatment for malignancy of the reproductive organs: cancer of the womb (uterus), cervix, ovary, vagina and vulva.  Our centre provides a regional and national service and is accredited by the NCCP (the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme) for complex radical gynaecological surgeries. International standards of treatment apply, and the service is supported by research and teaching activities through Trinity College Dublin and the Cancer Trials Research Office at SJH.

Over 300 women with gynaecological cancer are referred to the centre annually. Cancer of the endometrium (lining of the womb) is the most common cancer, followed by cancer of the ovary/fallopian tube, then cervical cancer. Cancers of the vulva and vagina are less common. Women are referred by their general practitioners or by gynaecologists at their local hospital. A Multi-Disciplinary Team of doctors plans and provides the cancer care, and surgery is performed at SJH. Some of the treatments such as chemotherapy can be given in other local regional hospitals. Radiotherapy treatment is given at St Luke’s Hospital (SJH and in Rathgar, Dublin). When treatment is completed, long-term follow-up care is often provided at the patient’s local hospital.  Follow-up visits may go on for five years or longer.

What is Gynaecological Cancer?

Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Not all growths are cancerous, so biopsy (removing a small sample of tissue to examine cells under a microscope) is important in making a cancer diagnosis.

All genital tract cancers (womb, cervix, tube and ovary, vulva and vagina) are treated at the St James’s Cancer Institute.

Endometrial Cancer (Cancer of the Womb)

Ovarian/Fallopian Tube Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Vulval Cancer

Vaginal Cancer

Gynaecological Cancer Care Research (Trinity College Dublin)

The Gynaecological Cancer Centre in St. James’s Hospital is the largest in Ireland and sees over 300 cases per year. We work closely with scientists and doctors from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to advance the understanding of cancer and its complications. Ovarian cancers, in particular, are usually diagnosed at a late stage and therefore are more difficult to treat. Much of our research has focused on trying to develop tests that will pick up this cancer early. We are also involved in large studies with other centres in Ireland and abroad to try to find new and better ways to treat gynaecological cancers and to minimize the side effects of treatment.

Development of Biomarkers for Early Diagnosis and Treatment Response

Early detection of gynaecological cancers is important for effective treatment. St. James’s Hospital, in collaboration with TCD and the DISCOVARY Consortium, has identified a number of potential markers for ovarian cancer that can be detected in a blood test. We are currently validating these biomarkers and hope that they can be used in the clinic. We are also looking at markers that might reveal how the cancer will respond to treatment. The research is conducted at the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences on the St. James’s Hospital site.

Prevention of Blood Clots

Gynaecological cancers are associated with a high risk of blood clots, which can be fatal if left untreated. Trinity College research groups are working with gynaecologists in St. James’s Hospital to develop a risk score to determine which patients are likely to get blood clots, particularly after cancer surgery. These patients can then be given a preventative medication that can reduce their risk.

Understanding How Ovarian Cancer Spreads

Ovarian cancer is a metastatic disease, meaning that it can spread throughout the body.  It does this by avoiding the body’s natural defences, which usually destroy abnormal cells as they pass through the bloodstream. Scientists in TCD as well as a group in Dublin City University are working to understand this process and to develop a device that can detect cancer cells as they circulate in blood.

How Do I Get Involved?

When you are patient in St. James’s Hospital, you may be approached by a member of a research team who will explain the details of the studies and ask whether you wish to participate. Your doctor will provide you with an information sheet, and you will be asked to sign a consent form. If you agree, a small sample of blood is taken at the same time as the other blood samples required for your treatment. A small piece of tumor tissue may also be taken. Participation is optional, and your treatment will not be affected if you decide not to take part.