So you know a bit about breast cancer. Perhaps you’re super sensible and check your breasts every month, as we all should.
You probably know about cervical cancer. You’ve done your ‘smear for smears’ selfie and you (grudgingly) went to your last check up.
But did you know that in total there are FIVE gynaecological cancers that affect women?
Did you know you can get cancer of the vulva, vagina and uterus (womb), as well as of the ovaries and cervix?
I’ve got to be honest: I didn’t. This week I was lucky enough to attend the launch of The Eve Appeal’s #getlippy campaign, and the event was by turns uplifting, eye-opening and heart-breaking.
The Eve Appeal is the only national UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of and funding research into gynaecological cancer – and my goodness, is their work needed.
Every day in the UK, 58 women are diagnosed with one of the five forms of gynaecological cancer.
More than 21,000 women and their families are affected by these cancers each year.
Too many of us don’t know enough about our own bodies: about what’s normal, what’s not and about when we should seek medical advice.
According to The Eve Appeal, when shown a medical drawing of the female reproductive system almost half (46%) of the women they surveyed couldn’t locate the vagina, while 60% had no clue where the vulva was hiding.
A frankly ridiculous 67% of the women The Eve Appeal asked didn’t know what an endometrium is – despite the fact that endometrial cancer, also known as cancer of the uterus or womb, is the fourth most common women’s cancer in the UK.
For the record: the endometrium is the lining of the womb, which becomes thick with blood during your monthly cycle. This blood is then shed when you get your period.
Nearly a fifth (18%) of women said they felt worried about seeing their GP about a gynaecological health issue.
YOU GUYS. Doctors are professional, highly trained experts, and they are there to help you. Never be embarrassed about seeing your GP if you think something isn’t right with your health, no matter which body part is affected.
Please know that to your doctor, looking at your vagina is no different than looking at your eye to see if it’s infected, listening to your chest to make sure your bronchitis has cleared or assessing your bad back to check whether you really haveslipped a disk.
41% of us apparently think that being under 35 provides some sort of magical protection against gynaecological cancer.
I can assure you, having heard the bloody amazing Karen Hobbsspeak at the event, that it does not. Horrifyingly, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 24.
Lastly – and this makes me simultaneously sad and FULL of rage – a third of women don’t see their own gynaecological health issues as “serious enough” to warrant a visit to a doctor. I mean, WTAF…?
First and foremost, take yourself and your gynaecological health seriously.
Get to know your body: how it looks, how it feels and how it smells (yes, really: a strong-smelling vaginal discharge can be a warning sign that something’s wrong).
Get to know what happens when for you. Write things down. If your monthly cycle changes, or if you notice any unusual discharge, bleeding or pain, go and chat with your GP.
Even symptoms such as needing to pee more frequently, diarrhoea and abdominal bloating can be related to gynaecological cancers – so it really is vital to know what’s usual for you and what isn’t.
Just as importantly: never be afraid to talk about your body or any concerns you might have about it. Talk to your family, talk to your friends and talk to a doctor if needs be.
The #getlippy campaign is about raising awareness of gynaecological cancers and empowering women to speak more openly about the parts of their bodies that are typically hidden inside underwear and exclusively referred to via euphemism.
Given the levels of confusion The Eve Appeal has uncovered about our gynaecological health, this openness is much needed.
To show your support for the #getlippy campaign, you can post a “pout for a purpose” selfie on social media (check out Instagramfor mine…).
Even better, you can buy a lip product from a fabulous selection of beauty brands who have committed to donating either £1 or 10% of the purchase price to The Eve Appeal throughout May.
Look for the #getlippy sticker on the following products:
I know I’m a gobby cow sometimes – but seriously, this issue really is worth getting lippy about.
I want my little girl to grow up able to name her body parts, know what feels normal for her and feel completely comfortable with seeking any medical help she might need.
I don’t want any of our daughters to grow up unaware of what they’ve got going on inside, ignorant of the warning signs they should watch out for or – perhaps most tragic of all – careless of their own gynaecological health because they don’t think of it as a priority.
The change starts with us.
For more information on the #getlippy campaign, to find out more about The Eve Appeal or to make a donation, visit the website.