10 September 2018
Over 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year* but awareness of symptoms is still very poor according to leading cancer charities.
Now, as part of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout September, campaigners are calling on people to open up and discuss the subject – and they mean men as well as women.
“Cancer doesn’t just affect the person with the disease – it affects everyone connected to that person, their family and friends - that means it is much more than just a ‘woman’s problem’,” according to Miss Pampa Sarkar, Consultant Gynaecologist at Spire Thames Valley Hospital in Berkshire.
“Both women and men need to be more aware of what is normal because this is the only way they will be able to tell when something is wrong. As with all cases of cancer the quicker it is detected the better the treatment outcomes,” she added.
Miss Sarkar said: "I would urge women not to ignore symptoms that they are worried about but are not sure if they should be seeing a doctor. Any vaginal bleeding outside of periods is abnormal and should be checked out either by your GP or by a gynaecologist. Symptoms of bloatedness and pain in the lower part of the abdomen, although common, should not be ignored, and you should see your doctor."
The five cancers categorised as gynaecological are:
Cervical cancer: Cancer of the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina) often has no symptoms in its early stages. If you do have symptoms, the most common is unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.
Abnormal bleeding doesn't necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer, but it should be investigated as soon as possible. It is very important to have regular cervical smears to detect the disease in the pre-cancerous stage.
Endometrial Cancer or cancer of the womb: Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom. If you have been through the menopause, any vaginal bleeding or spotting is considered abnormal. If not menopausal, then ‘unusual bleeding’ may include bleeding between your periods or very heavy and prolonged periods. About 8,475 new cases are diagnosed in the UK every year - most in women aged 40 to 74.
Ovarian cancer: The fifth most common cancer amongst women in the UK with more than 7,000 women diagnosed each year. As the ovaries are situated within the abdomen, cancer of the ovaries is often discovered in later stages when successful treatment is much more difficult. Symptoms that you should be aware of are of bloatedness.
Vaginal cancer: A rare form of cancer with around 260 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. The most common symptom of vaginal cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding although smelly or bloody vaginal discharge, pain during sex or pain when urinating can also be indicators, as can irregular or heavier periods.
Cancer of the vulva: The vulva is a woman's external genitals including the lips surrounding the vagina (labia minora and labia majora), the clitoris (sexual organ that helps women reach sexual climax), and the Bartholin's glands (two small glands each side of the vagina). Symptoms of cancer and precancer can include a persistent itch, pain, soreness or tenderness in the vulva. You should also look out for raised and thickened patches of skin that can be red, white or dark or any lumps or wart-like growths.
Miss Pampa Sarkar is one of our leading Consultant Gynecologists here at Spire Thames Valley Hospital. If you would like to learn more about any procedures or have any questions, please call us on 01753 665 404 or email us.
*Figures from Cancer Research UK