Why talking about vaginas could save your life
By now many of us are cottoning on to the fact that breaking down the period taboo is good for society in general. And amen to that. But did you ever think about the fact that it could also save your life?
May is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, and never has it been more important to talk about menstruation. That’s because one of the big early symptoms of the five gynae cancers – womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal – is a change in your periods. In the past, a widespread silence around women’s health has meant confusion and a lack of education about what’s normal and what isn’t. The first step towards realising when something’s wrong is knowing what to expect in the first place – and then feeling comfortable about visiting the GP to check out anything unusual.
The Eve Appeal, which funds research into gynae cancers, has launched the Get Lippy Campaign to solve this problem by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms to look out for, and getting people talking about what changes are worth checking out.
To put it in perspective, 58 women every day in the UK will be diagnosed with one of these five cancers. Every day 21 women here die of a gynae cancer. Sobering numbers, yet only 1 in 5 of us feel comfortable discussing vaginal health with family and friends. This might go some way towards explaining why a third of women in the UK end up ignoring signs that could be serious cancer symptoms.
Our friend Kat wrote a moving piece for our blog about what happened when she initially ignored some unusual bleeding after sex. When she had a smear test, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It’s important to remember that there are many reasons for irregular bleeding and cancer is only one of them. But if you notice something unusual for you, it’s always best to get it checked out.
Too many women end up dying of embarrassment because they don’t feel comfortable discussing their gynaecological health. Ladies: it’s time we talked.
6 quick things you can do now
Clue yourself up on the symptoms of gynae cancers. Each cancer has slightly different signs, so the best thing is to spend five minutes reading about the symptoms now so you’ll know what to look out for in future.
Don’t ignore changes. Get anything unusual checked out as quickly as possible to put your mind at rest. And remember, there’s nothing you can show a doctor that they haven’t seen before. GPs see literally hundreds of vaginas and vulvas in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colours and smells. They’re not there to judge you, but to help keep you well.
Talk about it! Promise yourself you’ll be as open as possible about periods and bodies. If a friend confides that something weird’s happening with their periods or “down below”, support them in getting it checked out at the GP. At Callaly we have been known to book smear tests around the same time as our pals and then go for a hot chocolate together afterwards (just saying…).
If you’ve been thinking about treating yourself to a new beauty product this month or if you know someone with a birthday coming up, you could buy a lipstick, gloss or balm from the #getlippy range – profits from the sales go towards the Eve Appeal.
Share your pout and shout selfie on your social feeds and get involved with the #getlippy hashtag.
And of course you can also donate money to help raise awareness and fund vital research. Just text LIPPY to 70660* to donate £3 to The Eve Appeal.