At a time when women are still made to feel shame and embarrassment just for having a vagina, is it really a surprise that some are dying unnecessarily from gynaecological cancers?
It’s a shocking truth that about 2100 women a year die from gynaecological cancer in Australia each year and sadly, many would survive if their condition was caught early.
We’re talking cervical, uterine, ovarian, vulval and vaginal cancers here. At a time when we should have normalised having healthy, open discussions about the health of our reproductive systems.
It’s a truth that a lot of women will delay medical consultations when they experience many of the symptoms of gynaecological cancers – such as abnormal bleeding (after sex, between periods or after the menopause), abdominal pain, bloating or change in bowel habit, discomfort, itching or a lump or ulcer on the vulva – for fear or shame of intimate medical tests.
However, those humiliating examinations that none of us enjoy are key to identifying gynaecological cancers early. So those “embarrassing” symptoms you’ve perhaps been experiencing – such as abnormal bleeding from the vagina (after sex, between periods or after the menopause), abdominal pain, bloating or change in bowel habit, discomfort, itching or a lump or ulcer on the vulva – need to be checked out.
While the majority of women with these symptoms will not have cancer, it is important that the appropriate tests are carried out promptly so that those with cancer can be identified and treated.
The gynaecological cancer statistics in Australia
Just over 2000 women died from gynaecological cancer in Australia last year.
- In 2021, an estimated 6576 women were diagnosed with gynaecological cancer
- Of all the new cancer cases diagnosed in women last year, 9.3% were gynaecological
- The estimated number of deaths from gynaecological cancer in 2021 was 2139
- And of all the cancer deaths in women, gynaecological cancers accounted for an estimated 9.9%
- However, the chance of surviving at least 5 years is 71%
The importance of cervical cancer screening
Of all gynaecological cancers, ovarian cancer is the biggest killer, thanks to its very vague symptoms, uterine cancer affects the most women, and cervical cancer is the focus of the most public policy work.
The reason for the focus on cervical cancer is that it’s the only gynaecological cancer that can be detected in a precancerous stage with simple – but yes, undignified – 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.
Even if you are vaccinated against HPV, you still need to participate in regular cervical screening. Australia’s Cancer Council recommends that all women aged 25-74 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.
Call us today at South Coastal Health & Community Services
Did you know we have our very own female GP here at South Coastal Health and Community Services who can provide Cervical Screening services.
Please call (08) 9550 0900 to make an appointment. We’re at 4 Civic Boulevard, Rockingham.