Talking Taboos | Never too young to know

Eve’s mission is to stop cancer before it starts. We have a razor-sharp focus on prevention and early diagnosis. A crucial part of this is making sure that girls and women have a positive relationship with and strong understanding of their own bodies. Banish the taboos, use proper language and anatomical terms, and normalise conversations around cancer, screening, signs and symptoms. Only then will they be less fearful and better equipped to look after themselves.

This needs to start early. Young children ask where babies come from and how they’re made. Older children are told they’re going to get a ‘cancer vaccine’ but aren’t sure why or what it protects them from. Girls leave higher education and receive their first smear test letter, and over a quarter of them ignore it. With cancer, we know that an ounce of prevention is far preferable to a pound of cure.

That’s why as part of Gynae Cancer Awareness Month, #TeamEve hosted a Talking Taboos event, where we heard from a range of panellists, including menopause doctor Louise Newson, menopause advocates Meg Mathews and Michelle Heaton, gynae cancer surgeon Adeola Olaitan, Vice-President of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and TV broadcaster Cherry Healey have a passionate and wide-ranging debate on the menopause, periods, and more generally women’s health.

The key discussion points that were discussed included:

  • Concern expressed over women’s lack of access to information regarding the menopause
  • The need for much improved GP training on the menopause
  • The importance of girls understanding their bodies so they can spot the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers early
  • The lack of specialist NHS menopause clinics across the country, a vital resource for many women in need of treatment.

If we can get the education angle right, we won’t see 58 women a day diagnosed with one of the five gynae cancers, and we’ll have more 25 year olds booking their cervical smear test when the letter pops through the post. At The Eve Appeal we are passionate about breaking down barriers and talking about the taboos that surround women’s health. It matters, because talking about gynae issues, going through the menopause or experiencing unusual bleeding or pain should never be too embarrassing to seek help for – whatever your age.

Many women tell us that the first time they heard of a gynae cancer is when they’re sat in a room with a consultant being diagnosed with one. This is devastating, frightening and fires us up to strive on at The Eve Appeal. We’re determined to talk about these taboos and to take the fear away. Being more open, understanding the signs and symptoms and ensuring women know their bodies are all key factors in changing this devastating state of affairs.

At the event we also discussed The Eve Appeal’s Put Cancer on the Curriculum campaign, which calls for Department of Education draft guidance to be amended so children learn about cancer in schools in an age-appropriate way, along with enhanced body knowledge and information about the HPV Vaccination Programme and cervical cancer screening programme. This is so that girls in particular can help to make a positive impact on their future health. The campaign has been backed by a huge number of respected organisations and charities, including the Royal College of Pathologists, Sex Education Forum, Ovacome, The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and Shine Cancer Support, amongst others.

One thing’s for certain. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. So whatever your age: know your body, know your normal, and if you’re worried, seek advice – not from Dr Google but from a trusted source or your GP.

Thank yous

Thank you to Mintel for donating the venue gratis to The Eve Appeal and hosting a fantastic evening for a second year running. Their generous support has been crucial in opening up loud and honest conversations about women’s health, and we’re very grateful.

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to our corporate partners for supporting our Talking Taboos event: Sylk, HCA Healthcare and Canesten.