We’re over half way through The Eve Appeal’s #GetLippy campaign and it’s time to talk about WOMB CANCER. It’s okay if you haven’t heard of it, that’s why we’re here.
I have teamed up with the Eve Appeal’s nurse Tracie to talk through the signs and symptoms of each of the gynaecological cancers. We started on the outside and are working our way in. First it was vulval cancer, then to vaginal cancer, last week we did cervical cancer and next week, the last week of the Get Lippy campaign we will finish with ovarian cancer.
Awareness of gynaecological cancers among women in the UK is worryingly low with jut 1 in 7 being able to name a gynae cancer.
More worryingly still it has been found that 42% of 18 to 24 year old women WOULD KEEP SYMPTOMS SUCH AS ABNORMAL VAGINAL BLEEDING TO THEMSELVES.
This culture of silence is seriously endangering our health and so the #GetLippy campaign is asking the UK to speak up and speak out to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer.
1/3 of women asked would be too embarrassed to see their doctor if they had a problem ‘down below’.
I HATE THIS.
So before we get into it I have just one really important thing to say:
VAGINA IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
Right, now you’re feeling proud of your lady bits, or at least comfortable enough with them to appreciate that we HAVE to talk about these things, let’s get to it shall we?
What/where is your womb?
The womb (uterus) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. It’s the place where babies grow or, if you’re like me, where the coil sits. The lining of the womb is the thing that sheds once a month to form your period.
- bleeding after the menopause
- bleeding in-between periods
- heavier periods than usual
- a watery or bloody vaginal discharge
If you are anything like me, Dr Google is NOT your friend. Upon reading a list of symptoms like this you will do one of two things: 1) suddenly convince yourself that you have EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE SYMPTOMS and therefore you must be dying 2) do sweet fa with the information you’ve been given because surely these symptoms could be anything.
Neither of these options are sensible. SO. I have asked Tracie, the fabulous nurse behind the fabulous Ask Eve Service (a free service on the Eve Appeal website that allows you to ask a nurse completely confidentially about any of your gynaecological health concerns) to answer my top ten vulval cancer related questions.
The Womb Cancer Q&A.
1) What would you say qualifies a ‘heavy period’? For me it varied so much month to month, so how do you notice when it becomes worryingly heavy?
Good point. It’s impossible to define! So I would suggest that any period pattern that changes for ‘no reason’ is worth noting .
2) Can you explain more about the watery, bloody vaginal discharge? When would this occur and when should we be worried?
Okay, so when we see bleeding as a signal of womb cancer, it doesn’t have to be the “Snow White” type blood! ie. That fresh red! It can be watery… The thing with this is it is more a worry if it happens with no explanation… ESPECIALLY post-menopause
3) Bleeding in between periods occasionally happens to everyone, how heavy would it have to be/often would it have to occur before you suggested we started to seek help?
So it’s not so much the flow, it’s the persistence. A one off bleed is not so worrying unless it’s post menopause in which case it’s definitely worth getting it checked!) but if it keeps happening for no reason…. Go see your doc!
4) Can womb cancer be seen/detected by routine smears?
No, not yet ! The smear is so important, but can only detect pre – cancerous cervix cancer at the moment. The Eve Appeal are working on research to see if we can get more info from the smear test so ask me again in a year or so!
5) How much does an excess of oestrogen have to do with womb cancer? If there is a lot what can we do to avoid too much oestrogen being put in our bodies?
Lots! We know that too much oestrogen, not “ balanced” by progesterone can encourage growth of the womb lining, to a point that it can grow into an early cancer. So, with protecting ourselves… OK, so we carry oestrogen in our adipose (fat) tissues, honestly the best thing to do is to keep the weight down to keeps the levels down. If taking HRT, then a woman should have a combination of both oestrogen and progesterone.
6) If we were to take these symptoms to the doctor, what would their first step be? That’s the procedure at the GP?
Okay, so they are likely to take a history, probably not examine, but will send you for an ultrasound scan of your womb (it’s totally painless!) if you are post–menopausal or if they are worried they will refer you to a gynaecologist.
7) Is there any particular age group of women that are more commonly affected by cancer of the womb?
Yes! The vast majority of women are post–menopausal .
8) For a person like myself who no longer has periods (due to the coil), are there any symptoms that might show themselves to me?
Good question …. Bleeding is the most common symptom and this may happen despite the coil….
9) Are there any other reasons someone might bleed after the menopause or would it instantly be something to worry about?
Yes! Vaginal atrophy… medical term for the ageing (personally I prefer the term mature!!) vagina where the skin becomes thinner, less moist and stretchy and more fragile….
10) Could these symptoms be anything else?
Yes! Could be fibroids (benign growths in muscle lining of womb), endometriosis (another benign condition), if you have any of these symptoms though it really is worth going to the doctor!