Published on: 1 September 2023.
September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, which draws awareness to cancer of the cervix, ovaries, vagina, vulva and womb. So, to encourage more people to talk about the disease, Vitality Magazine has answered some of your most common questions.
Taboo subjects are hard to tackle because they’re, well, taboo.
Vitality data shows that almost one quarter (21%) of women are too embarrassed to seek medical advice for female-related health concerns and that 20% would not start a conversation around a taboo topic for fear of being judged.
But Dr Kiran Johal, a Medical Adviser for Vitality, stresses the importance of talking about health concerns as it helps to breaks the stigma and can get you faster access to care should you need it.
“Although significant progress has been made in the area of women’s health and our attitudes towards it, taboos do still exist,” she explains.
“Talking about a health concern has the potential to save lives, whether that’s encouraging someone to attend a screening appointment or finding support in others going through the same experience.”
For Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month, Vitality Magazine is helping to tackle the stigma around women’s health by answering some your most-asked questions head-on.
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- Bowel cancer awareness: How to spot the signs and symptoms
What are gynaecological cancers?
There are five: cervical, ovarian, vaginal, vulva and womb. Every year the disease impacts around 22,000 women, but awareness levels of these cancers are particularly low.
Each of these diseases has their own set of symptoms, which can vary from vaginal bleeding to something seemingly innocuous, such as back pain.
Which gynaecological cancer is most common?
Womb cancer, otherwise known as uterus. “The risk of developing womb cancer increases with age and increased exposure to the hormone oestrogen.”
Research, meanwhile, shows that almost one third of womb cancer diagnoses are linked to obesity.
Symptoms vary from abnormal bleeding from the vagina, bleeding between your periods and a change in vaginal discharge.
Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynaecological cancer. Symptoms of the disease are often described as ‘silent’ as they are vague and non-specific, which makes knowing the signs potentially lifesaving.
These include lower abdominal pain, bloating, feeling full quickly and a reduced appetite.
“Cervical cancer is perhaps the most well-known of the gynaecological cancers,” says Dr Kiran. Its symptoms are similar to womb cancer and include unusual vaginal bleeding.
Can gynaecological cancers be cured?
Yes, gynaecological cancers can be cured. Treatment, however, is much more likely to be successful if the disease is caught early. This means that knowing the signs and symptoms of the gynaecological cancers are paramount.
Ensuring you are fit and healthy will also increase your chances of a positive outcome, should you need treatment for any gynaecological cancer.
Members of Vitality that have a health insurance plan can contact us straight away if they have a health concern and can be referred to our one-stop clinic. You won’t need to go through your GP first, just log into Member Zone and visit Care Hub for more.
However, if you’re not insured with Vitality, please contact your GP as soon as possible and they can refer you to the NHS pathway should you require it.
Or if you are interested in taking out a plan with Vitality, visit vitality.co.uk for more details.
Can I still get pregnant if I get diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer?
Sadly, treatment for most gynaecological cancers will mean you won’t be able to conceive.
This is due to the fact that treatment will include a radical hysterectomy, the removal of the womb, or radiotherapy, which can stop the ovaries from functioning as they should.
That being said, early detection of some of the gynaecological cancers, such as cervical, can make it possible to have surgery to remove the cancer and leave the womb in place, allowing you to become pregnant in the future.
Through Vitality, you could get access to a physiotherapist, dietician, psychologist or a clinical nurse specialist, as well as other professionals, to help you through your diagnosis and recovery.
If you are worried about a cancer diagnosis and want to find out more, visit our Guide to Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment here.