The Eve Appeal wants us to be aware of a key symptom of three types of gynaecological cancer: abnormal vaginal bleeding
It’s about time, but women’s health issues and experiences are finally becoming less taboo. Periods, endometriosis, miscarriage, infertility, menopause - they’re all topics that are no longer brushed under the carpet because, quite frankly, they really shouldn’t be.
However, something that we don’t really talk about is abnormal or unexpected bleeding. I mean, it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice of a conversation starter with the girls. But, not only are we not talking to each other about it, we’re not talking to health professionals either.
A survey of 3,000 women by charity The Eve Appeal found that 80% of women wouldn’t visit their GP if they experienced an unexpected vaginal bleed. This is concerning, because it’s a key symptom of three of the five gynae cancers - womb, cervical and vaginal cancer - which, together, affect 12,750 women in the UK every year.
So, why aren’t we talking about this? Well, it’s perhaps unsurprising when you consider that almost three-quarters (72%) of women say they weren’t taught how to identify when something was wrong with their periods at school.
How to spot abnormal bleeding
As it’s often the first symptom to present with these types of cancer, here are some key signs to look for:
- Bleeding after the menopause
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding that is heavier or more painful than usual
- Bleeding after sex
Something else to look out for is any change in your vaginal discharge – from blood-stained to a light or dark brown colour. If something doesn’t seem quite right, then speak to your doctor.
Of course, abnormal bleeding isn’t always a sign of cancer, but it’s best to get it checked for peace of mind. But, although it’s easy to spot, we often don’t get it investigated - perhaps because we put it down as “just one of those things”, or are embarrassed or worried about going to see the GP.
However, it’s important to remember that picking up on the early signs and symptoms of these diseases is critical in getting as early a diagnosis as possible, to give you the best possible outcome.
To do that, it’s really important to know what is (and isn’t) normal for you, so that when something isn’t quite right, you can feel more confident in seeking medical advice. Tracking your bleeding can be really helpful.
If you have periods, there are plenty of cycle tracking apps you can use to do this, or you could just make a note in a diary. If you don’t have periods, but experience any other vaginal bleeding, you should track that too. Regularly checking back over your entries can help you to keep an eye on any gradual changes and spot abnormalities.
To mark Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month this September, The Eve Appeal has teamed up with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to share tips to help women spot abnormal vaginal bleeding.
The charity is also calling for us to Go Red and raise awareness of this key red flag symptom so that every woman knows her normal and gets bleeding checked.
Simply download your free fundraising pack, pick a date in September, then invite friends, family and colleagues to your online party, wear Red and raise much-needed funds and awareness.