As you may know it is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month and I am delighted to feature a blog written by a young lady who wanted to tell us about her perspective and why she, like many of us believe that cancer should be a subject which is openly discussed during education. Obviously this is written from the female perspective but I believe it is important for all children to understand more about cancer, which has become the ‘modern day plague.’
“The results are in, and Eve Appeal-commissioned research has found that two thirds of parents want their children to receive a formal education regarding the signs and symptoms of cancer. The majority of participants believed that fostering open, informative conversations about cancer in the classroom could help combat associated stigmas — and ultimately save lives.
That’s why, this September 1st — to kick-start Gynae Cancer Awareness Month — we’re launching our Put Cancer on the Curriculum campaign. 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime; around 4 in 10 UK cancer cases every year could be prevented. But not without the right knowledge.
Early diagnosis is crucial to a better outcome for cancer patients, particularly in gynaecological cases. It’s our goal to arm the next generation with the knowledge they need to recognise indicators as soon as possible. Our Put Cancer on the Curriculum campaign calls on the Department for Education to amend their guidance and ensure a cancer education programme is taught in an age-appropriate way, with enhanced body knowledge and awareness included for girls and boys.
So, what does it mean to Go Red, and why should you be doing it? Go Red is our fundraising initiative for September, and in taking part, you can help raise funds to support all the work we do at the Eve Appeal: campaigning to Get Cancer on the Curriculum; spreading awareness of the five gynaecological cancers; running our specialist Ask Eve nurse service, which places gynaecology experts just a phone-call away to discuss worries and offer advice. Go Red is an event you can conduct at school, home, work or in your local community. Simply encourage everyone to wear something red on that day, and all partakers can donate. Find out more here.
The launch of our curriculum campaign is a critical time for our cause, and we really need your support. I can vouch first-hand for an all too reductive approach to sex education at present: not that long ago it was me sat in a classroom of sniggering kids, an ill-equipped PE teacher before us beating us round the heads with the fact that pre-ejaculation WILL get you pregnant. Too often, sex education for young people is built on a foundation of fear-mongering: ‘this is how you’ll get pregnant’ and ‘these are the STIs you’re at risk of’. The sex ed scene in Mean Girls is funny because it’s true.
Of course, pregnancy and STIs are vital topics to cover, but what about the rest? Not once, say, did I hear the phrase ‘smear test’ uttered in a classroom. The first I heard of such a test was from my mum, in passing, and any snippets thereafter consisted of horror stories: how intrusive and traumatising it sounded; how a friend of a friend of a friend once passed out from the pain. It goes without saying that I heard nothing at all, ever, of the other four gynaecological cancers besides cervical. Before starting work for the Eve Appeal, I had no idea how lacking in basic health information I really was.
I asked a group of girlfriends what they thought about smear tests, and they unanimously understood it to be a ‘deeply unpleasant’ experience. When I asked if they knew what the test actually entailed, none of them could say. These are unfounded stigmas, based on a fear of the unknown. Around 3000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, and a smear test is a critical — and perfectly endurable — way of ensuring women at risk can receive the care they need.
I know I’ll be going for my first test when I’m invited next year, but I worry others will be all too happy to put it off. Naturally, we don’t know what we don’t know. Without proper education, we’re not looking for or worrying about changes in our gynae that could indicate cancer. In pushing that letter aside, we don’t understand the risk at which we’re putting ourselves.
So, by Going Red for the right reasons this September, you can help us in our mission to make it known. Don’t go red because you’re embarrassed about gynae health, or you’re scared to ask what you don’t know. Go Red to encourage critical health education in schools; Go Red to support our Ask Eve nurse service; Go Red to help women know the signs, symptoms, and to book a check-up with their doctor.”
I would like to thank the Eve Appeal and others who are doing an incredible amount of work around this issue. Also for inviting me to share this unique blog. As always please feel free to share your own views below!
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.