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Gynaecological Cancer Awareness: Normal or Not?

9th September 2022

In the UK, over 22,000 people each year are diagnosed with some form of gynaecological cancer. Many of us don’t even know what the different types are or what we should be looking out for in terms of our own wellness, signs and symptoms.

September is gynaecological cancer awareness month – the perfect opportunity to get educated and join our community of individuals who want to understand more about their own bodies and where they can seek guidance or support should they need it.

Too often, people don’t seek treatment for gynae concerns because they’re embarrassed, don’t know the symptoms or aren’t sure where they can go for help without being turned away or judged. This can be a deadly mistake.

Simply having access to the correct information and a safe space can be life-changing. So please,  keep reading.

Gynaecological Cancer Awareness – The 5 Types

There are five main types of gynae cancer we want you to be aware of. 

Each comes with its own set of symptoms, risks and treatments. With some overlap, it’s incredibly important to be aware of each one and seek medical advice if you are concerned.

Womb Cancer

Also known as endometrial cancer, this is the most common type of gynaecological cancer in the UK with around 9,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It usually affects people over the age of 50 who have been through the menopause. However, we are now seeing higher rates of pre-menopausal people also being affected.

Anyone with a womb could be at risk.

The majority of cases begin in the lining of the womb or endometrium. While the signs may differ from person to person, the most common symptoms include:

  • Bleeding or spotting after menopause
  • Heavy periods that are out of character
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge (compared to usual)

If you are worried about any of these symptoms, you should contact your GP right away or a specialist consultant or clinic. During your appointment, they may ask you questions about your family medical history and how you feel. It is likely your doctor may also need to do an examination.

We know it can feel embarrassing or uncomfortable, but this is an important process that could be the key to early diagnosis. Having the courage to talk about it and go through the stages may just save a life. You are always within your rights to ask for a particular doctor or chaperone to make the experience a little less intimidating.

Other signs of womb cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling in your pelvis
  • Pain in your pelvis or lower back
  • Pain during sex
  • Blood in your urine

Anyone with a womb is susceptible and that’s why comprehensive gynaecological cancer awareness is so important! This includes women, trans men, non-binary people and intersex people. However, it does mean that you cannot get this type of cancer if you have had a hysterectomy.

Having high oestrogen levels is just one thing that can increase your risk of being diagnosed. Being overweight, having PCOS, diabetes or a family history of cancer are just a few more risk factors that can come into play.

gynaecological cancer awareness month


For more information please visit the NHS website.

Ovarian Cancer

There are many types of ovarian cancer, with the most common being epithelial ovarian cancer. Much like the type that affects the womb, it is often diagnosed in women over the age of 50 and can be difficult to spot as symptoms such as bloating or tummy pain can be mistaken for other health concerns.

When cells in the ovary grow abnormally, it can cause the following symptoms, leading to a diagnosis:

  • Persistent bloating
  • Persistent pelvic & abdominal pain
  • New bowel habits
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling full more quickly or nauseous when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Back pain


When diagnosed early, it offers the best chance of successful treatment. This is why we believe that not only is gynaecological cancer awareness crucial, but so is access to and education surrounding ovarian cancer screening.

We offer screening at our clinic with Professor Jay Chatterjee. He is one of the top Gynae Oncology specialists in the country – offering a full consultation, transvaginal scan, blood tests and follow-up here at The Surrey Park Clinic.

If abnormalities are found, you may be referred for further treatment by Professor Chatterjee. While cysts and other benign growths can be mistaken for this, it is always worth going through the tests to make sure.

Vulvar Cancer

This is one of the rarest forms, with around 1400 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. It usually affects women over the age of 60 and the most common symptom is a lump or growth on the vulva which may bleed or itch.

What Is The Vulva?

The vulva is the name given to the external female genitalia. It includes the pubic mound, inner and outer labia (lips), clitoris, urethra and vaginal opening.

gynaecological cancer awareness month


Cancer can develop on any of these parts but is most commonly found on the labia.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Itching or burning sensation around the vulva
  • Changes in colour or texture of the skin
  • Unusual discharge that may have an offensive odour
  • Persistent pain in the pelvic area

A diagnosis is usually made following a biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of tissue from the affected area to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. The vulva will also be checked for any other abnormal growths.

This is especially important as many symptoms can be confused for common conditions like infections. But as they can suggest something more sinister, it is always important to seek medical advice.

Treatment will depend on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed but may involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Cervical Cancer

Gynaecological cancer awareness can help better our understanding of these scary signs and symptoms. Many people will have heard of this type from receiving vaccinations at school. However, few actually know what it is or what to look out for.

It is caused by changes to the DNA in cells of the cervix, which is the lower part of the womb that opens into the vagina. The most common symptom is abnormal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods or after menopause. Other symptoms include:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina that may have an offensive odour
  • Pain during sex
  • Persistent pain in the pelvic area
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss 
  • Fatigue

Nealy all cancers of this kind are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus or HPV for short. The HPV vaccines are offered to young people between the ages of 12 and 13 as this will usually be a window before they become sexually active.

While around 80% of us will come into contact with this infection, it usually clears up without any need for treatment or the concern of higher risk.

Cervical screening, also known as smear tests, are offered to people with a cervix at the age of 25. The NHS currently invites people every 3 years, but we also offer private cervical screening at our clinic in Guildford, Surrey.

We recommend yearly testing, as this can be crucial for early detection and can be the difference between life and death. We know no one particularly likes going to their cervical screening appointment  and it can be an uncomfortable process, however, we do everything we can to ensure you are as relaxed, comfortable and at ease as possible during your visit.

If you’d like to find out more about what happens at a smear test or would like to book an appointment with our GP Dr Alex Standring, you can click here.

gynaecological awareness month

Vaginal Cancer

This is the rarest gynaecological cancer, with only around 400 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. It usually affects women over the age of 60 and symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods or after menopause
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina that may have an offensive odour
  • Pain during sex
  • Persistent pain in the pelvic area 
  • A lump or growth in the vagina
  • Itching or burning sensation around the vulva
  • Changes in colour or texture of the skin on the vulva 
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss 
  • Fatigue 

There may be a few things that can increase a person’s risk of developing vaginal cancer.

  • 40% of cases are in people over 75 years old
  • There are many types of HPV that may develop into vaginal cancer
  • History of abnormal cervix or vaginal cells
  • Previous treatment of other gynaecological diseases with radiotherapy
  • Weakened immune system
  • Smoking

Because it is similar to cervical in the sense that many cases will be due to HPV infections, we would always recommend attending your cervical screening (smear test) appointments and encouraging children to undertake the vaccinations at school.

It can grow very slowly and the seriousness usually depends on the size of any cancerous growths. This is why early diagnosis is key. As we mentioned before, waiting three years for cervical screening might not always be the best option, especially if you have a family history of cancers.

If you’re worried about anything we have discussed today or would simply like to get into the habit of more regular screening, get in touch with our team today or book an appointment online. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.