I was told just before Christmas in 2009 that I had endometrial cancer, but I had to ask where that actually was, because like a lot of women, I had never heard of it. I knew about cervical and ovarian cancer but not womb cancer.
Sadly, since then, not much seems to have changed. There is still no national awareness campaign for what is the most common gynaecological cancer, which according to Cancer Research UK’s latest figures from 2013 affects over 9,000 women a year. They say the numbers are rising by 10% a year, so that would mean that approximately just over 12,000 women will be diagnosed with womb cancer this year.
That is 12,000 mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers, nieces, girlfriends and partners too many.
The vast majority will be older women, many of them peri or post-menopausal, but there will be younger women for whom this cancer diagnosis means so much more. It means not only dealing with cancer, but having a major operation. Dealing with going into premature menopause; having to deal with all the emotional and psychological issues it all brings, and also having to face the prospect of never being able to have a child of their own. For many younger women this is often the hardest part to deal with and sadly the support they need to help them deal with all these issues is not always there.
Womb Cancer Support UK began back in April 2011, and since then I have been contacted by a wide variety of women of all ages and backgrounds. Some are as young as in their late teens – I know of at least two young ladies who were diagnosed at just 19 years old, yet there is still this misconception that womb cancer only affects older women.
This is why awareness, not only in women, but also the medical profession is vital. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a woman say that her GP kept telling her that she was ‘too young’ to have womb cancer.
Women of all ages who present with unusual or unexplained bleeding should always be listened too. The lack of information around womb cancer doesn’t help the situation but we are pleased to hear about the new Ask Eve service that The Eve Appeal has launched. Run by a team of gynaecological nurses, they offer information and support on all five gynaecological cancers and hopefully will help plug the gap by providing awareness of gynae cancers in general, but also womb cancer specifically.
Over the past 5 years we have distributed over 5,000 of our womb cancer awareness leaflets up and down the UK; many of the women who have come to us for support have helped get the leaflets into GP surgeries, clinics, hospital waiting rooms and libraries too.
The word is getting out there about womb cancer but so much more needs to be done. By working together, those of us that have an interest in gynaecological health can help each other and spread the word about what we do.
Womb Cancer Support UK was founded in April 2011 to support women who had been diagnosed with womb cancer and to also raise much needed awareness around the most common gynaecological cancer.