Every year, 420 South Australian women are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer. Deb is one of Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 Cancer Nurses who supports more than 5,000 South Australian callers every year. This Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, she shares the importance of listening to your body and seeing your doctor when something doesn’t feel quite right.
There are several different types of gynaecological cancer including vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. Cancer of the uterus is often forgotten about but is actually the most common and accounts for over half of all gynaecological cancer cases in South Australia each year.
Deb says that as busy workers, mothers and wives, we can often put others in our lives before ourselves, but it’s important to make your health a priority too.
“Getting your free cervical screening test every five years and seeing your doctor when you notice changes in your body, helps to find cancer early when it is easier to treat,” Deb said.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t know what’s normal for their body. Education on women’s health has come so far in the past few decades – 30 years ago it just wasn’t talked about as much.”
“This means that older women are often more at risk of developing gynaecological cancers because they weren’t taught what signs and symptoms to look for, or they might feel self-conscious talking about it with their friends, family, or even their doctor.”
Deb says if you have any unusual bleeding or pain during sex, it’s not right. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor.
Unusual bleeding is a common symptom across all types of gynaecological cancer and can include:
- a change in your periods
- heavier than usual bleeding
- bleeding between periods
- constant bleeding (periods that continue without a break)
- bleeding after sex
- bleeding or spotting after menopause.
“Ovarian cancer often has a big impact on women and families since it is usually found at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the symptoms can be similar to other common conditions which can make it hard to diagnose early,” Deb said.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are more likely to develop as the cancer grows and may include:
- pressure in the abdomen or pelvis
- a swollen or bloated abdomen
- feeling full quickly
- changes in toilet habits
- weight loss or weight gain.
“If you have any ovarian cancer symptoms and they are new for you, are severe or continue for more than two weeks, it is best to have a check-up,” Deb says.
“Trust your body and listen to it. Often, we know when something isn’t right, but it can be hard to put into words. If you think there’s something going on with your body, persist with your doctor.”
“If you’re right, you might have just saved your life.”
For more information about gynaecological cancer, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to speak to an experienced cancer nurse or visit www.cancersa.org.au/cancer-a-z/gynaecological-cancer
For more information about cervical cancer screening, visit www.cancersa.org.au/prevention/finding-cancer-early/finding-cervical-cancer-early