In England, survival rates for gynaecological cancer are lower than in many other developed countries.
Early diagnosis, so critical to a strong recovery from the condition, is not being achieved as often as it could or should be.
There is a perceived stigma attached to vaginal problems, reportedly leading to many women delaying or avoiding an approach to their GPs. This is something that we, as a community and a society, need to address.
Raising awareness of gynaecological cancer
September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, and charities, professionals and interest groups are campaigning to make the symptoms and treatment options of the five gynaecological cancers better known.
The five cancers are cervical, ovarian, vaginal, vulval and womb.
In a fascinating and frank article, The Eve Appeal charity highlights the need to abolish the 'taboo' on gynaecological cancer, and to stress the importance of having these difficult but potentially life-saving conversations.
Nearly 20,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, and almost 8,000 of those diagnosed will die within five years. These are staggering figures which make the scale of the problem unarguable. The Eve Appeal is encouraging all women look out for any changes in their body, and to speak to their doctors if something does not feel right. The charity aims for a future where no woman delays a visit to her GP because of the sensitive, intimate nature of the problem.
Jo's Trust is another leading UK charity, running a number of positive awareness campaigns including a series of videos under the Twitter hashtag #LetsTalk. These videos focus on some of the experiences of women suffering from gynaecological cancer, as well as the range of side-effects that can accompany treatment. Issues surrounding sex and intimacy, early menopause and HRT and pelvic radiation disease (PRD) are discussed frankly but sensitively.
The charity also runs a scheme called 'Let's Meet', an annual event providing women affected by cervical cancer with an opportunity to meet others in similar situations. This comprises of a range of workshops, led by leading specialists in the field, with a focus on 'life after diagnosis'.
Misdiagnosis and late diagnosis of cancer
The number of cases involving misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer in a timely manner is significant. Late or inappropriate treatment can have a devastating effect on women suffering from these life-threatening conditions and, where the failed treatment was due to errors on the part of healthcare professionals, it can be possible for victims and families to make a claim to compensate for the harm suffered.