Talking to your GP

A General Practitioner (GP) is a doctor who is based in your community (aka your family doctor). They treat patients with minor illnesses and look after your general health.

However if you have a specific concern you can go directly to a specialist like a gynaecologist (a doctor skilled in the treatment of diseases related to the reproductive organs). Your GP will refer you to a specialist, if they feel this is necessary. Your GP can also refer you if you specifically ask for a specialist’s opinion.

When should I see my GP?

You should see your GP if you notice a change in your body that isn’t the norm for you, or if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer discussed on our site.

If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t delay in seeing your GP – it will help ease your mind, and you can be proud of yourself for taking care of your health!

Your worries may not be anything to do with cancer, but the earlier cancer is picked up the better chance there is of successful treatment and ultimately, survival.

Anything that is shared with your doctor will be confidential, and you can always take a support person with you or ask for a nurse to be present.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms

Tips for visiting your GP

Often when we are worried about something, it’s hard to remember everything we wish to say.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your visit to your GP:

1. Have a written list of the symptoms you are concerned about and try to be specific – when did you start to notice them, how and when they present, and how frequently do they occur?

2. Tell you GP about any current medications you are taking, including natural and herbal remedies.

3. If you are concerned it could be cancer, let your GP know. Do you have a family history of cancer?

4. Take a support person / family / whanåu member / friend.

5. Ask your GP to clarify anything you don’t understand.

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Don’t feel silly going to the doctor – it’s your body, you know it better than anyone else!

What’s my GP going to say?

Your GP will ask you questions like:

  • What symptoms you have
  • Where in the body they are present
  • What they feel like and your pain / discomfort level
  • Is there anything that seems to make the symptom(s) better or worse?
  • Your family’s medical history
  • Any major illnesses (past or present)
  • Any allergies
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What’s my GP going to do?

Your GP may wish to do a pelvic examination and will ask if they can examine you.

To perform a pelvic examination, your GP will give an internal examination of your vagina, and at the same time press down on your abdomen with their other hand, to detect if there are any lumps, distention (swelling) or abnormalities.

They may also use a speculum to gently open your vagina – doing this allows them to look at your cervix they may take a swab which will be sent for testing and can check for infection.

So, what happens next?

Your GP may prescribe you with medication, they may refer you to a specialist for more tests or the may ask you to return in a week or two if your symptoms persist.

It’s very important to go back to your GP if your symptoms worsen or remain.

The above is what could happen at an initial GP examination and if your GP suspects abnormalities, further tests will be arranged.

What does further testing look like?

Diagnosis of a gynaecological cancer can involve a number of different tests and examinations, including:

  • Cervical screening / Pap smear*
  • A pelvic examination
  • Tissue samples / Biopsy
  • CA125 blood test and/or other blood tests
  • Imaging tests – these may include a transvaginal ultrasound, an MRI(magnetic resonance imaging) and/or a CT scan (computed tomography scan)
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* A smear test ONLY tests for Cervical cancer – the other 4 gynaecological cancers cannot be detected with a smear. The only way of protecting yourself from late stage diagnosis is to familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms.

Please read more on what testing is done within the individual gynaecological sections Ovarian Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Uterine Cancer, Vulval Cancer, Vaginal Cancer.

Testing for each of these cancers is different, and the signs and symptoms for each are different too.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms