Gynae Cancer Awareness Month 2019

Every September for Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, we run our Go Red campaign. Last year for Go Red, we commissioned a survey with YouGov that found 44% of parents surveyed use euphemisms (tuppence, fairy, flower etc) instead of anatomical language when speaking to their daughters about their bodies. Only 1% of parents use the word vulva, and a fifth of parents don’t refer to that part of the body with their daughters at all!

Key results from our Gynae Cancer Awareness Month survey:

  • Over 40% (44%) of parents most frequently use euphemisms such as ‘bits’, ‘front bottom’, ‘flower’, ‘tuppence’, and ‘fairy’ with their daughters instead of the anatomically correct words.
  • Less than a fifth (19%) of parents frequently say ‘vagina’ and only 1% frequently use the word ‘vulva’ when referring to female body parts in front of their daughter.
  • A fifth (22%) of parents never refer to female body parts in front of their daughter.
  • Almost a third (31%) of parents feel it is only appropriate to use anatomical language with girls about their bodies when they are aged 11 or older.
  • There are significant generational differences in terms of what women feel comfortable talking about with female relatives:
    • 43% of 18-24 year old women are comfortable talking about gynaecological cancer compared with 63% of women aged 55 and over.
    • 56% of 18-24 year old women are comfortable talking about cervical screening compared with 76% of women aged 55 and over.
  • Across generations, women are most comfortable talking to female relatives about periods (75%), menopause (72%), and cervical screenings (70%).

Vulva is NOT a swear word, it is a part of the body, the same as an arm, leg, nose.

To overcome this shame around girl’s women’s bodies and to improve sex and body education for the Eve’s of tomorrow we asked everyone to Go Red.

Children are not born with any shame or embarrassment about their bodies, it is picked up throughout their life. Stopping taboos before they start in the next generation of women needs open, clear and accurate information conveyed to our children.

We know that these conversations aren’t always easy and that there may be gaps in your own knowledge. So as part of our Go Red campaign, we created Educating Eve Part 1– tips to help you communicate with your child about their body. Having timely conversations as they grow up will leave them better empowered over their health as they go through life.

Knowing your own body – and what’s normal for you so you can spot when something isn’t – is essential for accessing the medical help at the right time. At The Eve Appeal our focus is on the prevention and earliest detection of the gynaecological cancers – seeking help and being diagnosed as early as possible provides the best outcomes for these diseases.

We also need to make sure that all the women in our lives – mums, aunts, grandmas, colleagues and friends – who are at a higher risk of developing four out of the five cancers, are also aware of the symptoms of the gynaecological cancers and comfortable and confident talking about any changes in their body they might be experiencing – and that’s why we’ve created Educating Eve Part 2.

Infographic explaining need for better body and sex education
image credit @corytontwins

Educating Eve Part 1                                          

Educating Eve Part 2

To find out more about how you can Go Red for Gynae Cancer Awareness Month 2020, click HERE.

A host of parenting, family and women’s organisations backed the campaign, pledging to use the tips and open up conversations among their own networks, including the Sex Education Forum, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI).

Lucy Emmerson, Director, Sex Education Forum, says: “Research shows that children want to talk more to their parents about their bodies, but embarrassment and lack of knowledge can get in the way. We encourage all parents and carers to take a moment to plan how those conversations might sound and use advice from the Eve Appeal to talk more often and accurately about gynaecological health”

Ann Jones, Vice-Chair and Chair of Public Affairs, National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), says: “The Eve Appeal’s research highlights the importance of not shying away from talking about all aspects of women’s health, something WI members have never been afraid to do.

“Earlier this year, we launched a new campaign urging WI members to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening, but the need to have conversations about gynaecological health and the support available to women has been a longstanding concern of the WI. In 1964, the NFWI passed a resolution calling on the NHS to provide comprehensive and routine cervical screening tests for all women, and in 1996 we called for further research into ovarian cancer.

“Talking openly about gynaecological health and using the correct terms is such an important step in tackling the stigma that can surround these issues, and ultimately prevent some women from seeking potentially lifesaving care. That’s why we fully support the Eve Appeal’s Go Red campaign and its call to action for parents, women and society as a whole to start conversations about women’s health.”