The cancers no one wants to talk about?

The cancers no one wants to talk about?

Did you know that collectively, gynaecological cancers are the world’s fourth biggest cancer killer among women? And the second most common cancer among women in the UK?

Lots of people we speak to have no idea of these figures. Why is this? Are gynaecological cancers, which cover womb, cervical, ovarian, vaginal and vulval cancer, the cancers that no one wants to talk about?  

Our recent research shows that women aren't speaking to health professionals when they have symptoms of gynaecological cancer. A third of women told us that symptoms of gynaecological cancer are 'not serious enough' to warrant seeing a doctor. Furthermore, a fifth would wait a month or more before seeking help about the main symptom of gynaecological cancer - irregular vaginal bleeding - and one in twenty say they wouldn't seek help at all if they noticed a lump or growth in their vagina.   

These findings are worrying and part of the reason why we've just launched Ask Eve, a specialist nurse-led gynaecological cancer information service. Delivered via confidential telephone and email support, those that are worried by symptoms are encouraged to Ask Eve as a first port of call if they're delaying seeking help from a health professional.   

We want to hear from you:

• Did you know gynaecological cancers are the second most common cancer among UK women?

• Is there anything you'd be too embarrassed to speak to your doctor about?

• Is there anything you want to Ask Eve about for example related to the signs and symptoms and risk factors of gynaecological cancers? Let us know your questions here or by emailing our Ask Eve nurse at nurse@eveappeal.org.uk

2 Replies

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  • Well I did go and see my doctor about irregular vaginal bleeding and it took her 18 months of repeated consultations for her to refer me for the simple test it needed to establish that the cause of the bleeding was endometrial cancer. By that point, I was probably pretty close to having Stage IV cancer - cells had drifted out of my womb via my fallopian tubes and had started to drift about and colonise other parts of my abdomen (very very fortunately without getting quite as far as my lymph glands). Doctors need to eliminate the worst options first, not spend months reviewing all the statistically more likely options before they consider that it MIGHT be cancer.

    I now feel very stupid for not jumping up and down and screaming much earlier. I guess that I was TOO well informed about alternative explanations, such as having a bad menopause or peri-menopause or having fibroids, and I took it for granted that as my doctor was not concerned, the symptoms must be due to another age-related condition which was just part of a middle-aged lady's lot. And not bad enough to be a nuisance about.

    Don't be afraid of being accused of being a hypochondriac or time-waster! If it's not normal for YOU, it's not normal!

  • Hi MrsMiniver,

    Thank you for contributing to this discussion. All of us at Ask Eve think your points are very well made, certainly in the case that "if it's not normal for you, report it, it may not be normal". We are sorry to hear that in your case this was not normal and you had to wait for the correct tests to achieve diagnosis.  

    You are in no way stupid as you reference in your original post, you are clearly well informed. It is simply not possible for the lay-based woman in the street to know about all the potential causes of irregular bleeding, and unfortunately, at the point you were experiencing symptoms and these being investigated by your GP,  you did not know about endometrial cancer.

    Your story encourages us at Ask Eve to continue to spread the message - if you're experiencing irregular bleeding... get bleeding checked. 

    As always, if you continue to experience symptoms despite on-going investigations or during treatment, do let your GP know. 

    This is not time wasted, this is VERY much time well spent.

    Tracie Miles,

    Information Nurse, Ask Eve

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