Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month
September 2016 is gynaecological cancer awareness month.
Gynaecological cancer includes cancer of the cervix, ovary, vagina, vulva and womb (uterus).
In the UK, approximately 55 women are diagnosed with one of these cancers each day and, sadly, 21 women losing their battle each day.
Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month is designed to raise awareness of these different types of cancers, to include setting out signs and symptoms for women to look out for and also to make women aware of circumstances where they may be at an increased risk of developing one of these cancers.
This is the fourth most-common cancer in women in the UK, with over 8,400 women diagnosed each year. It can be called several different names by healthcare professionals, including uterine cancer and endometrial cancer. The most common symptom of this type of cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina, especially in those who have already been through the menopause. It should be noted, though, that most people with abnormal bleeding will not have a gynaecological cancer.
Women are at an increased risk of developing womb cancer if they have high levels of oestrogen or a hormone imbalance. It is not always possible to prevent womb cancer but it is thought that maintaining a healthy weight and the long-term use of some types of contraception can reduce your risk.
The fifth most-common cancer among women in the UK, with over 7,100 women diagnosed each year. There are different types of ovarian cancer, with epithelial ovarian cancer being the most common.
If diagnosed at an early stage, the outcome for ovarian cancer is considered to be relatively positive. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can include increased abdominal size and persistent bloating, persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous. Increased risk factors can include a woman’s age – eight out of ten cases occur in women over 50. If you have two or more close relatives who have suffered from ovarian cancer then your risk of developing it may also increase.
Cervical cancer primarily affects women between the ages of 30 and 45. In the UK, the cervical screening programme is said to save an estimated 4,000 lives each year.
Aside from attending the cervical screening appointments, women are also told to look out for unusual vaginal bleeding, and pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Additional risk factors of developing cervical cancer can include smoking, taking the oral contraceptive pill for more than five years and having children.
There are just over 1,000 cases of vulval cancer diagnosed in the UK each year, making it one of the rarer types of gynaecological cancer. Symptoms of vulval cancer can be akin to an infection, such as a lasting itch and pain or soreness. Other symptoms can include an open sore or growth on the skin or a mole that changes shape or colour.
Most cases of this type of cancer develop in women ages 65 and over. Another risk factor is where a woman has vulval intraepithelial neoplasia, which is a pre-cancerous condition.
This is a rare type of gynaecological cancer, with just over 250 cases in the UK each year. It is most commonly diagnosed in women over the age of 60.
Signs and symptoms can include bleeding between periods, pain during sexual intercourse, a vaginal itch that won’t go away and a lump of growth in the vagina.
Many signs and symptoms of the different types of gynaecological cancer can also be as a result of less sinister causes, and this can sometimes lead to delays in women seeking medical treatment. Therefore, women are encouraged to seek advice from their GP if they notice any unusual changes. On occasion, however, the fact that many of these types of cancer mimic the symptoms of less serious conditions can unfortunately lead to women not receiving a swift diagnosis or treatment when they do seek medical assistance.
Please bear in mind that the signs and symptoms set out above are not intended to be an exhaustive list and further information on the signs and symptoms of these types of cancer, together with specific advice on when to seek treatment can be found at www.nhs.co.uk. For more information about Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, visit the Eve Appeal’s website.
Lyons Davidson clinical negligence department has dealt with many cases in relation to delays in identifying and treating gynaecological cancers. If you would like more information about any of the points raised in this article or if you think you have been affected by any delays in treatment, please contact Matthew Jones, Associate in the Clinical Negligence team, by emailing [email protected] or phoning 02920 905743.