September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM) and is a perfect time to encourage more women to learn about the five gynaecological cancers; cervical, ovarian, womb, vaginal and vulval.
Only many of the UK’s leading cancer charities are missing the message when it comes to vaginal and vulval cancer awareness and these women are asking for more awareness to be raised.
‘After being diagnosed I was really shocked because I had never heard of this type of cancer. I set about trying to learn more and wanted to raise awareness with other women.
‘I was so surprised when I started to see that many of the cancer charities and organisations for women’s gynaecological cancers were not including vulva and vaginal awareness symptoms in their online campaigns. I don’t think it is good enough to mention there are 5 but then only focus the information on three. This is why no one has heard of them!’
Clare and others like her, feel that the awareness campaigns of gynaecological cancers often focus on ovarian and cervical, missing the opportunity to inform women of the rarer forms of women’s cancers.
The type of cancer we are trying to raise awareness of is rare but one which is totally curable if caught in time, if you know what to look for of course. We need this awareness now.
Lesley Hislop, 46, was diagnosed with vulva cancer in March 2018. She said: ‘I had never heard of vulva cancer. When you first hear you have cancer you want to google the hell out of it. Trying to raise awareness would be easier if cancer charities would promote all the five gynaecological cancers equally.’
Audrey Blair, 58, added; ‘I was diagnosed last year with vulva cancer. I feel very frustrated that my late diagnosis meant that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.
‘As we all know the earlier cancer is picked up the better the outcome. So, this type of cancer needs all the publicity it can get! I find it very frustrating that some of the cancer charities bypass vulva cancer. We need to ask why is this? Surely, they need to get on board and raise awareness!’
Many of the women have contacted the charities and asked for more exposure.
Deb Cook, 51, was diagnosed with vulva cancer in February 2018, she said: ‘Charities need to remember that not all women suffer from the breast and ovarian cancers and give us rarer cancer sufferers some exposure. We don’t have a special week or any targeted campaigns and we need it!’
Do you know your vagina from your vulva?
The outside area of the vagina is called?
Answer: Vulva, the vulva in all of the external organs, which are all the bits on the outside such as the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and the vaginal opening and urethra opening. The vagina is on the inside, its a muscular canal that connects to the uterus.
For more information take a look at ‘So what is a vulva anyway‘ produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
What is vagina and vulva cancer?
Vaginal cancer is cancer that affects the vagina. Vaginal cancer is usually caused by infection with some types of the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The HPV vaccination, now routinely offered to 11- to 13-year-old girls, helps prevent infection with the main types of HPV linked to cervical and vaginal cancer. This can significantly reduce the risk of getting these cancers later in life. Symptoms of vaginal cancer include:
- vaginal bleeding after the menopause
- bleeding after sex or pain during sex
- smelly or bloodstained vaginal discharge
- bleeding between periods
- a lump or itch in your vagina that won’t go away
- pain when peeing, or needing to pee a lot
Cancer of the vulva is a rare type of cancer that affects women.
The vulva is a woman’s external genitals. It includes the lips surrounding the vagina (labia minora and labia majora), the clitoris (the sexual organ that helps women reach sexual climax), and the Bartholin’s glands (two small glands each side of the vagina).
Symptoms of vulval cancer can include:
- 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 or wart-like growth on the vulva
- bleeding from the vulva or blood-stained vaginal discharge between periods
- an open sore in the vulva
- a burning pain when passing urine
- a mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
See a GP if you think you might have these symptoms or for more information visit: