Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month is recognised each year in September and is a perfect time to encourage women to learn more about gynaecological cancers, including early detection, signs and symptoms and support available to women diagnosed.
Sadly, around 1085 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer each year and tragically around 355 women will die from the disease.
Types of gynaecological cancers
Gynaecological cancers involve the female reproductive organs and occur when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. There are five gynaecological cancers:
• Ovarian cancer
• Uterine cancer
• Cervical cancer
• Vulval cancer
• Vaginal cancer
Know your body – early detection is vital
Most gynaecological cancers can be extremely difficult to detect and therefore it is important women become aware of the symptoms and look out for any unusual changes with their bodies.
A possible symptoms of gynaecological cancers can include unusual vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause, or during or after sexual intercourse.
Other possible symptoms may include abdominal pain, unexplained weight lost, difficulty urinating, blood in urine, passing urine frequently or during the night or a change in bowel habit.
If any Queenslanders are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important they speak to their GP immediately.
Cervical cancer screening
Of all gynaecological cancers, cervical cancer is the focus of the most public policy work.
This is largely because cervical cancer is the only gynaecological cancer that can be detected in a precancerous stage through population screening.
Cervical cancer screening has been one of the great public health successes of the 20th century, in nations that run organised screening programs.
In addition, almost all cervical cancers are caused by the infectious human papillomavirus (HPV), the National HPV Vaccination Program is for girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years providing protection against HPV related cancers in the future.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The new Cervical Screening Test is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least 20%.
The test is a simple procedure to check the health of your cervix. It looks and feels the same as the pap test, but tests for HPV.
Your first Cervical Screening Test is due when you turn 25 or two years after your last pap test. After that, you will only need to have the test every five years if your results are normal.
Even if you are vaccinated against HPV you still need to participate in regular cervical screening.Cancer Council recommends that all women aged between 25 and 74 years of age participate in the National Cervical Screening Program every five years. If you are unsure if you are up to date, speak to your GP as soon as possible.
For further information visit Cancer Council’s cervical screening website.
Information and support available for those diagnosed
If you or a loved ones has been diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, getting information about cancer and treatment options may assist in answering many questions.
Call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 Support and Information line and speak with one of our health professionals who can provide you with information, emotional and practical support.
Cancer Council Queensland has more information on the different types of gynaecological cancers here.