Having just returned from a very sunny family holiday, I can’t believe that we are nearly in September, which of course is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. As you know I work across all tumour types, because many issues regarding cancer support are common. I am delighted to collaborate with many organisations involved with these cancers, and was shocked to find that lack of knowledge and embarrassment is so prevalent in this sector! There are many similarities with Bowel Cancer, Prostate Cancer etc. In this day and age we should no longer feel awkward talking about our intimate body parts to health professionals. As we all know many cancers can be treated successfully if caught early enough, which many of these are not.
Much of my own work is about trying to bring many of the hidden effects of cancer out into the open, so we can understand more what we need to do, to ensure we are able to provide the correct support. I was excited to hear that The Eve Appeal has opened a dedicated confidential helpline to help ladies with their very personal issues, and am delighted to highlight the work this wonderful charity does to start GCAM. I would like to thank Dr Tracie Miles and Eleanor Calver from the Eve Appeal hotline, for sharing below the inside view of what is happening within the gynaecological cancer sector, and wish them and all the other charities involved a very successful month of much needed awareness raising!
“Worried about gynaecological cancer? What is gynaecological cancer? We suggest you Ask Eve! I guess we should start with – who is Eve? The Eve Appeal is the only UK charity focusing on all five gynaecological cancers; womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal. Their mission is to raise funds for vital research into prediction and prevention of these cancers, whilst also raising awareness of the signs and symptoms, risks and potential causes of gynaecological cancers.
A couple of years ago The Eve Appeal ran a scoping exercise asking women where they go for support and information around gynaecological cancer. Sadly as Chris has illustrated time and again, there was a void of places for women to go to talk about their fears and worries around potential gynaecological cancer symptoms, and receive specialist information and advice. Speaking to many women, The Eve Appeal discovered the silence around gynae cancers was for a number of reasons. Why you ask? Women told us – it’s embarrassing, I should know what’s normal, I don’t want to bother my doctor, I’m frightened…
So Ask Eve was launched; the service is led by a gynae cancer specialist nurse who provides reliable, evidence based information for women and those who care about them. Questions are answered in confidence by telephone and email on all topics relating to gynaecological cancer; signs and symptoms, treatment, genetic factors such as BRCA and Lynch Syndrome, and living with and beyond cancer (survivorship). Since the launch in May this year, Ask Eve has listened to women, their friends and family members, fielding questions at all junctures of their cancer journey. The most common being ‘what’s normal bleeding?’
This is unsurprising as irregular or unexpected bleeding is the most common symptom of potential gynaecological cancers, of which 71% of all women have experienced this symptom. Most likely it is caused by something more benign, but it is always best to see your doctor. Ask Eve is supporting women of all ages to feel confident reporting changes in their vaginal bleeding patterns to their GP; changes like bleeding during or after sex, in between periods or after menopause. In other words, “get bleedin’ checked”…
Ask Eve has also listened to worries about gynaecological cancer running in families, also known as hereditary cancer, and The Eve Appeal is funding research in this area. Being involved on every level is key to Team Eve. Recently Ask Eve’s Nurse Lead and Admin support volunteered to be part of the FORECEE research study at the BRCA Protect Research Clinic. A study programme investigating factors that may predict a woman’s risk of developing breast, ovarian, womb and cervical cancer. They videoed their experience of having blood samples, cheek swabs and cervical smears taken, to show the reality of how easy it is to look after oneself whilst looking after others. To find out more or to participate too, go to www.brcaprotect.org.
Ask Eve Is listening to women (and those close to them) to provide a service they want, information. However, Ask Eve also understands that not every person can correctly name all of their genital anatomy, hence why the team is supporting Bubbles & Bush, The Eve Appeal’s latest fundraising campaign for Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month in September. Bubbles & Bush is raising funds for and awareness of gynae cancers, asking people to get their friends round, enjoy some pampering treatments in return for donations and discuss questions like why 98% of us groom our pubic hair, yet we feel too uncomfortable to talk about our anatomy with our GP. www.eveappeal.org.uk/bubblesandbush.
Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month in September is vital for Ask Eve. If we as a society are unable to discuss gynaecological issues or anatomy, then there will be a continued lack of knowledge around gynae cancer symptoms. For further information on gynaecological cancer symptoms, please go to www.eveappeal.org.uk/gynae. If you have any questions or concerns then please Ask Eve. No question is too small or too embarrassing! You can call the Ask Eve Team on Freephone 08088020019 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Please feel free to share your own experiences below, which will help other enormously. We need to get these issues ‘out there!’