Fifty five women in the UK are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every day, 21 of whom will not survive the disease. September 2015 is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month during which The Eve Appeal is spearheading a campaign called “Time to Open Up” for better detection and improved treatment of all five gynaecological cancers. It also aims to highlight the importance of frank and honest conversations about gynaecological health issues with friends, family members and doctors to encourage earlier diagnosis.
The term 'gynaecological cancer' refers to the five cancers that start in the female reproductive system, namely: womb (also known as cancer of the uterus, endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer), ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal. With the exception of cervical cancer, most are found in women aged over 50. But the incidence of some of the other gynaecological cancers in younger women has been rising.
According to The Eve Appeal, despite enormous progress in medicine and research over the last 30 years, 20,000 new cases of gynaecological cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year and, sadly, there are 7,600 related deaths. It is hoped that, by improving women’s knowledge of the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers and removing the potential stigma and misconceptions about who is at risk of them developing them, we can improve the survival rates in the UK which, when compared to some other cancers such as breast cancer, are relatively poor in the UK.
In a recent survey, The Eve Appeal found that one in five women aged 46 to 55 had not sought medical advice for symptoms such as changes to periods, persistent bloating or pelvic discomfort because they believed they were normal for someone of their age. In fact, postmenopausal bleeding is a key symptom of womb cancer, which women of this age group are at higher risk of developing.
Lucie Prothero, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who specialises in delayed diagnoses of cancer cases, said: “We wholeheartedly support Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month’s campaign to raise awareness and encourage openness about gynaecological cancers in the UK. As with most cancers, the key to greater survival prospects is normally early detection so, by improving women’s understanding of the signs and symptoms of these cancers, it is hoped that they will be quicker to discuss problems with their GP. All too often the symptoms of gynaecological cancers are not spoken about due to embarrassment or because women are unsure of how to approach the subject, as highlighted by The Eve Appeal’s latest research.
“Sadly, we see the terrible outcome of delayed diagnosis of gynaecological cancers. We receive many enquiries from cancer sufferers and their families who are concerned that the opportunity for an earlier diagnosis was missed. Often in circumstances where there is a claim for negligence, it has involved patients presenting to clinicians with consistent patterns of symptoms, where appropriate investigations have not occurred or have been inappropriately reported or followed-up. But it is also true that, in many cases, the patient’s symptoms may have been present for several months before concerns have been raised.”