30 August 2017
Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout September
It’s the 21st Century and many people in the UK would consider themselves unshockable - so why are we all so reluctant to discuss gynaecological cancer?
That is the question being asked by The Eve Appeal as Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout September. They are calling on both women (and their partners) to overcome their embarrassment in discussing their bodies and symptoms that they may be experiencing. Their campaign is backed by Mr Peter Baldwin a Consultant Gynaecologist and Gynaecological Oncologist at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital in Histon who said:
‘When treating any cancer, it is obviously important to diagnose it at the earliest possible stage. Many women present later than they might either by ignoring persistent symptoms or due to embarrassment in discussing their symptoms and concerns. This campaign aims to raise awareness of the symptoms and sings of cancer and encourages women and their partners to increase their knowledge of their own bodies to help spot abnormalities at an earlier stage.’
More than 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed each year with gynaecological cancer yet a survey carried out by The Eve Appeal reveals a large number of them know little about their own anatomy with nearly half of those surveyed unable to identify the vagina on an anatomical diagram and 45% of women unable to point out the cervix.
The five cancers categorised as gynaecological are:
- Ovarian cancer: ‘Ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnose. It can affect women of all ages but is more common in those over 50yrs. Symptoms can be fairly non-specific, but are often persistent and progressive. Women should report persistent pain, bloating and distension and should be aware of risk factors such as a family history of breast or ovarian cancer’ advised Mr Baldwin.
- Endometrial Cancer or cancer of the womb: ‘Most women with abnormal bleeding do not have womb cancer. However, it is fairly easy for a specialist to rule out this condition. All women with persistent irregular bleeding and those who have experienced bleeding after the menopause should seek advice from their GP or Gynaecologist. When this cancer is detected early, as it will typically be if women present with these symptoms, then surgery alone (hysterectomy) is often curative. ‘
- Cervical cancer: ‘Abnormal bleeding doesn't mean that you have cervical cancer’ Mr Baldwin reassured, ‘but it should be investigated by your GP as soon as possible. Having regular cervical smears is an important way to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer and it is now possible to vaccinate women against the common skin viruses that cause cervical cancer.’
- Vaginal cancer: ‘This is a rare tumour type and most people with these symptoms will not have vaginal cancer. However, a simple examination and taking a set of swabs, will often be all that is required to exclude cancer and identify the cause of the symptoms’ advised Mr Baldwin.
- Vulval cancer: ‘Women are often uncertain about what is normal, which makes identifying disease all the more difficult. Many women, in particular those with vulval disease, delay their presentation due to a lack of knowledge or embarrassment about discussing their concerns. This campaign is a good idea and hopefully will encourage women (and their partners) to find out what is normal and to have the confidence to report features of concern to their GP or Gynaecologist.’