Brinkmann Gynaecology

September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month

In the UK 18,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year and of these 7,700 women will die. That’s over 50 women receiving devastating news every day and 21 families torn apart by the loss of a woman they love.

We don’t like to talk about matters gynaecological – awkwardness prevents many from dealing with the issue and it’s said that one in four women find talking about gynaecological symptoms embarrassing, even with friends and family. This lack of awareness is costing lives so The Eve Appeal has declared September as Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month in the UK. A key factor in saving lives is raising awareness of these diseases, gently encouraging discussion of intimate issues and urging women to visit their doctor if they have concerns.

Despite these grim statistics, survival rates are improving and the more equipped women are about the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers and the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the overall survival rates. Cancer Research UK says earlier diagnosis, specialisation of surgery and chemotherapy and other treatments are bringing big improvements. Also a healthier lifestyle, healthy body weight and stopping smoking are all helpful in reducing the risks of developing cancer.
Earlier diagnosis of gynaecological cancers can help save lives so it remains important to be aware of the symptoms. This is particularly important since, unlike breast cancer, gynaecological organs are not easily visible. We therefore urge women to be aware of the symptoms to look out for so that the disease can be detected early when treatment is more successful.

Awareness of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer

Gynaecological cancers are cancers of the reproductive organs of women, which include ovarian, endometrial, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancer. The symptoms of each vary according to the site of the disease but there are some common symptoms which may point towards a gynaecological cancer:
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding 
Bleeding from the vagina should always be considered abnormal if it happens when you are not having a period. This includes:
    • Bleeding after the menopause (post-menopausal bleeding) 
Most women will go through the menopause around the age of 50. In 90% of cases, bleeding after your periods have stopped will be from benign (non-cancerous) causes. However, it can be a symptom of endometrial or cervical cancer or cancer of the vulva (although this usually presents as a lump or ulcer) and should therefore not be ignored.

    • Bleeding after sex (post-coital bleeding) 
This can be caused by a number of benign (non-cancerous) causes, such as infection, polyps or injury. However, it can also be an early warning sign for cervical cancer even if a recent smear test result has been normal.

    • Bleeding between periods (inter-menstrual bleeding) 
Bleeding between periods may be due to ovulation or polyps and are mostly benign. However, it can also be a symptom of endometrial cancer, particularly if it occurs in women in their mid to late forties. 

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
    It is normal to experience some discharge which tends to vary during the menstrual cycle and may be particularly noticeable during ovulation. Most women will be familiar with the way their body works and should report anything unusual to their doctor. Other discharge may be caused by infection (most commonly thrush) or sexually transmitted diseases. However an unpleasant discharge may be a symptom of cervical or endometrial cancer and should be investigated.

  • Abdominal swelling/bloating
    All women will experience abdominal bloating and swelling at some point in their lives and these are often caused by menopausal symptoms or common minor bowel disorders. However this can be a symptom of ovarian cancer, particularly if you are in your late forties or older and experience this symptom for the first time.

  • Itchy vulva 
Itchy skin on the vulva can be due to common skin conditions. Vulval cancer usually presents as a lump or an ulcer but itching can also be a symptom.

It may seem as if many gynaecological symptoms are similar to those of the menopause or other minor bowel conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome) and are therefore difficult to differentiate. However, women know their bodies better than anyone else and, if in doubt, should visit their doctor to get things checked out. Early diagnosis of gynaecological cancers can help save lives so:

  • Be aware of your body
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms 
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Early diagnosis means that cancer patients are living longer and living well.

To find out more on how to reduce cancer risk, click here.

The Eve Appeal website contains valuable information to inform and educate women about the signs and symptoms to look out for. Go to for further information or to support their “Funny Feet” campaign on Friday 28th September.