*Correction, it isn’t Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month, I’m lying. It was last month. I won’t pretend I wrote this in September, because I didn’t. So let’s look past this little mishap and carry on with the post!
IT WAS GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and I was all over it on the Gash Gossip Instagram. However if you didn’t see any of those posts, I’m here to tell you the importance of knowing all FIVE of the gynaecological cancers, as well as the signs and symptoms, right here, right now.
Each year in the UK, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer. Even with that staggering figure, there is still not enough awareness in women, and men, about what we should all be looking out for. Knowing our bodies and getting an early diagnosis means a better chance of life. And I’m personally, all for that.
So let’s jump straight in shall we? What are the FIVE gynaecological cancers? (Before reading on, name them quickly in your head and see if you know them. If you do, you’re a STAR!)
- Cervical Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Womb Cancer
- Vaginal Cancer
- Vulva Cancer
Up until last year, I didn’t know I had a vulva. So that is one gynae cancer I definitely wasn’t aware of. In fact, I’d probably only heard cervical and ovarian cancer being spoken of, the others I didn’t think I needed to worry about. Wait, let me rephrase that, because I don’t need to worry and neither do you, we just need to be aware.
I know I badger on about everything vagina related being important, but it really is. Especially when you consider that 2/3 women wouldn’t consult their GP for persistent bloating, a common symptom of ovarian cancer. Or that 1.28 million women didn’t go for their routine smear test when invited, which can detect pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. And 73% of women didn’t know where their vulva was, like me. There has never been so much awareness on the topic, so I’ve got to do my bit and spread the word too. I want you guys (who are mainly my family and friends ❤) to clue yourselves up, if you aren’t already, on these less publicised cancers.
The cervix connects a woman’s womb and vagina.
The most common symptom is unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, between periods or new bleeding after the menopause.*
The best way to protect yourself, is to attend your cervical screening (smear test).
Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer and is often detected late. Knowing what to look out for is key.
Signs and symptoms include increased abdominal size and persistent bloating. Not bloating that comes and goes.
Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain.
Unexplained change in bowel habits.
Difficulty eating, feeling full quickly or feeling nauseous.
Womb cancer can also be referred to as uterine cancer or endometrial cancer, which is cancer within the lining of the womb.
The most common symptom of womb cancer is again, irregular bleeding. For example, bleeding after the menopause or between periods.
Bleeding that is unusually heavy or vaginal discharge that is blood-stained or brown in colour.*
The vulva is the external part of the female genitals. The outer and inner ‘lips’ of the vulva, are the labia majora and labia minora.
It is a rare cancer, with just over 1,000 cases diagnosed a year in the UK.
Key signs can include, persistent itching and pain or soreness.
Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches of skin on the surface.
An open sore or visible growth.
A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour.
A lump or swelling on the vulva.
A very rare disease.
Discharge that smells or may be blood-stained.
Vaginal pain during sex.
A vaginal itch that won’t go away and pain whilst weeing.
Persistent pelvic and vagina pain.
*Please note that most people with abnormal bleeding do not have gynaecological cancer, but always get bleeding checked!
Listen, I was the first person to run and hide from anything that dared mention the word, ‘cancer’. I avoided knowing anything about the disease for years because I was scared of it. But obviously that is no way to beat it and tell it to bugger off. There is no cure, yet, so in the meantime we need to make sure we know our stuff. If you’re ever worried, seek professional medical help, and if that doesn’t settle your worries, go and seek it again. And again, and again, until you are satisfied.
I got bleeding checked 3-4 times as I knew the symptom could have meant something sinister. I was sent to the hospital where they then found abnormalities on my cervix. These abnormalities were pre-cancerous cells. If I hadn’t have gone to the doctor for whatever reason, the outcome could have potentially been a lot worse.
75% of vaginal cancer cases are preventable.
The Eve Appeal funded researchers have developed a new screening test that may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current approaches.
99.8% of cervical cancers in the UK are preventable. The screening programming in the UK is estimated to save 4,000 lives each year.
We need to make sure that everyone has all of the information.
Gossip about gynaecological cancers and save lives.
If you are concerned, or would like more detailed information, I recommend the following:
- The Eve Appeal: https://eveappeal.org.uk/gynaecological-cancers/
- The Lady Garden Foundation: https://www.ladygardenfoundation.com/gynaecological-cancers
- Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/
- Book a doctors appointment.
- Find a GP you trust and who listens to you.
- Speak to your friends/Mum/Gran and spread the word.