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Let’s talk about gynaecological cancer

It's Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month throughout September and we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the stats and symptoms in case they’re helpful to anyone reading.

We are not doctors, and all of this information is in the public domain, but if we hope that in sharing it, it could help someone to get a diagnosis a little earlier.

Gynaecological cancer statistics

There are five main types of gynaecological cancer: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar (a sixth type of gynaecological cancer is the very rare fallopian tube cancer.) Of all of these, only cervical cancer has regular screening at the moment, designed to detect cancer early.

  • A woman's lifetime risk is 1 in 41.
  • It is the fourth most common cancer in women after breast cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer.
  • Incidence rates increase from the age of 40 and peak in those aged 70-74.
  • Its incidence has increased by over 50% since the early 1990s.
  • 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.

(Ref. Royal Marsden)

Gynaecological cancer symptoms

Cervical cancer symptoms

  • Vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you (after the menopause, after sex, between regular periods)
  • Changes to vaginal discharge
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Unexplained pain in your lower back or pelvis

Ovarian cancer symptoms

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Frequent need to urinate

Uterine cancer symptoms

  • A lump or swelling in your tummy or pelvis
  • Pain in your lower back or pelvis
  • Pain during sex
  • Blood in your urine

Vaginal cancer symptoms

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • A lump or mass in your vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic pain

Vulvar cancer symptoms

  • A persistent itch in the vulva
  • Pain, soreness or tenderness in the vulva
  • Raised and thickened patches of skin that can be red, white or dark
  • A lump on the vulva
  • Bleeding from the vulva or blood-stained discharge
  • An open sore in the vulva
Read about how touch therapies benefit cancer patients’ mental wellbeing

Gynaecological cancer prevention

There's no singular or foolproof way to avoid gynaecological cancers (or any cancer), but there is emerging and growing information that helps us to reduce risk or increase the changes of catching it early.

  • Cervical screening: Smear tests are available for free on the NHS in the UK for women over the age of 25. From 25 to 49 you will receive invitations every three years. Then women aged 50 to 64 will receive invitations every five years.
  • HPV vaccination: The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common group of viruses that usually have few or no symptoms and generally don't cause an issue. It can cause genital warts in some people. However, the CDC now says that almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. For that reason the HPV vaccine is now recommended to help prevent infection by certain types of human papillomavirus. In the UK it is offered to 12- to 13-year-old boys and girls in school as it works best if it's received before becoming sexually active.

Typical treatments for gynaecological cancer

The treatment you may receive for different types of gynaecological cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer that you have. However, it usually involves either one or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The Royal Marsden has a helpful guide to give you an insight into the process. Read more here.

Spa treatments and your cancer journey

All cancer treatments have their side effects that doctors will be able to offer advice on.

From our perspective, spas are certainly not going to fix all problems, but with properly trained spa therapists and the right products, they can help to ease some side effects of cancer treatments and to provide support on your cancer journey.

For example, the right type of massage has been shown to help ease pain, improve mood and help with sleeplessness. Meanwhile, products from brands like Jennifer Young help to ease some of the skincare side effects of cancer treatment.

Read about how it feels to go to a spa when you’ve had cancer

If you would like to find out more about spas where therapists are trained to provide the best support on your cancer journey, you can follow the link to our Safe Hands for Cancer experiences, or read more articles on this blog.

Read more about cancer support in UK spas

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