Gynecologic Oncology

What is a Gynecologic Oncologist?

Gynecologic Anatomy

A Gynecologic Oncologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic cancers. Gynecologic cancers include:

  • cervical cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • uterine cancer
  • vaginal cancer
  • and vulva cancer.

Each of these has different symptoms, risk factors, and treatments. A gynecologic oncologist focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of these five main types of gynecologic cancer along with other gynecologic cancers that occur more rarely, such as fallopian tube cancer.

Gynecologic Cancer Basics

When abnormal cells multiply and grow out of control, it is called cancer. However, cancer is not a single disease- there are many different kinds of cancer. The types of cancer are named according to where the cancer started in the body. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung and breast cancer starts in the breast. Cancers that begin in a woman’s reproductive system or pelvic area are considered gynecologic cancers.

How are Gynecologic Oncologists different from other cancer specialists?

All oncologists receive specialized education and training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Gynecologic oncologists have completed additional education, training, and certifications specifically focused on gynecologic cancers. Pursuing this sub-specialty of medicine can add up to more than 15 years of education and training through medical school, residency, and fellowship programs.

Gynecologic Oncologists are trained to deliver the best care for treating gynecologic cancers using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation techniques as well as learning how to use research, manage symptoms, side effects, and survivorship.

Gynecologic Cancer Ribbon

How are gynecologic cancers treated?

Several factors impact the course of treatment for gynecologic cancers. Gynecologic oncologists are especially prepared to evaluate the cancer with surgical staging. The staging information can greatly impact the course of therapy.

Depending on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer at diagnosis, any co-morbidities, and the general health of the patient, a comprehensive cancer care plan is developed. The gynecologic oncologist will work with a multidisciplinary team to create a treatment plan that aligns with the patient’s wishes. Gynecologic cancers can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or hormonal therapy. Experimental treatments may also be considered as part of a clinical trial treatment protocol if the patient is enrolled in a study.

When should you see a gynecologic oncologist?

Usually, a woman is referred to see a gynecologic oncologist if she is diagnosed with a cancer of the reproductive system or if she has had abnormal screening exams or precancerous cells have been identified by her general gynecologist.

If a woman is told she has a precancerous or cancerous diagnosis, she can ask to be referred to see a gynecologic oncologist for further evaluation and treatment.

Our Gynecologic Oncologists

Kenneth F. Cofer, M.D.
Kenneth F. Cofer, M.D.

Brook A. Saunders, M.D.
Brook A. Saunders, M.D.,

Thompson Oncology Group’s two board certified and experienced gynecologic oncologists collaborate with an entire system of cancer support services from Thompson Cancer Survival Center and Covenant Health, offering patients comprehensive cancer care close to home. Dr. Kenneth Cofer and Dr. Brook Saunders are both accepting new patients. Clinic appointments are available at several Thompson Oncology Group locations.

How can I make an appointment?

To request an appointment with one of the Thompson Oncology Group gynecologic oncologists, ask your physician to send a referral to fax (865) 374-2083, or speak with a member of the New Patient Scheduling team by calling (865) 331-2060.

Cancer is complicated and a diagnosis of cancer for yourself or a loved one can be overwhelming. Learning basic information can decrease the mystery or confusion and empower us to ask better questions and make more informed decisions. Return to our blog and follow us on social media for more posts about gynecologic cancers and the team of cancer care experts.

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