Womb cancer, also called uterine or endometrial cancer, is a relatively common form of gynaecological cancer that affects over 9,300 women every year. Of those, 2,400 women die of the disease every year – that’s six women every day – despite around 34% of cases being preventable due to lifestyle factors.
It’s thought that 70% of women will survive 10 years or more post-diagnosis, but early detection is vital.
The symptoms of womb cancer include (but are not limited to):
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (for women who have been through menopause, any type of vaginal bleeding is abnormal, and for those who haven’t, heavy periods or bleeding between normal periods count as abnormal bleeding)
- Watery discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Loss of appetite
- Leg, back and pelvis pain
If you have any concerns or have noticed any of the above symptoms, make an appointment to see your GP.
Vulval cancer is rare, affecting 1,300 women every year in the UK. There are different types of vulval cancer, with the most common being squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which makes up 90% of vulval cancer cases. This type of cancer usually occurs on the labia majora, but not always.
Common symptoms include:
- A lump
- Itchiness that doesn’t go away
- Patches on the skin that are thick, raised, white, red, or dark
- Open sores
- A visible growth
- Changes in the appearance of moles
- A burning sensation during urination
- Abnormal discharge and/or bleeding outside of periods
Vulval melanoma makes up 9% of all vulval cancers, and it typically affects women over the age of 50. Signs include a change in the colour/pigment of any part of the vulva, itching, pain, and bleeding.
Other rare types of vulval cancer include verrucous carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, Paget’s disease of the vulva, and sarcomas such as epithelioid sarcomas and rhabdomyosarcomas.
Vulval cancer usually develops over time, with non-cancerous changes in the vulva noticeable up to several years in advance of a diagnosis. If you notice any changes, seek medical advice from your GP.
Approximately 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK, with most being aged 30-45. The NHS offers cervical screening (also known as smear tests) to women over the age of 25 every three to five years, but due to cervical cancer having almost no symptoms in its early stages, some women are diagnosed in the later stages.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (heavier periods, bleeding in between periods, or bleeding after the menopause)
- Pain and/or discomfort during sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Bleeding after sex
- Pain in the pelvis
Cervical cancer is usually caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common group of viruses. In most cases, the body fights off the virus with no problems, but 12 strains have been linked to cervical cancer, with HPV 16 and HPV 18 accounting for 70% of all cervical cancer diagnoses.
HPV is easily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and does not require intercourse to catch it. Girls ages 12 to 13 in the UK are offered an HPV vaccine and have been since 2008.
Even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, and notice any of the above symptoms, speak to your GP.
Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in women in the UK, with over 7,400 women diagnosed every year. It is most common in women over the age of 50, but it can affect younger women – primarily those who have been through menopause. There are four main types of ovarian cancer: epithelial ovarian cancer, borderline ovarian tumours, germ cell ovarian tumours, and sex cord-stromal tumours.
If ovarian cancer is caught early, it can be treated and even cured, but there is a chance it could come back, in which case it’s usually not survivable. This means knowing the signs is even more important.
Common symptoms may include:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling bloated
- Swelling in the tummy/abdomen area
- Feeling full fast when eating
- Pelvic and/or stomach discomfort
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your GP. It is likely not cancer, but it’s best to get it checked out to ensure a better outcome if the worst does happen.
Vaginal cancer is rare, with around 250 women diagnosed every year in the UK. Around 100 women die every year from it. It is most common in older women who have been through menopause, but it can affect young women, too.
Symptoms are similar to vulval cancer and may include:
- Bleeding after sex
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- A lump or abnormal growth in the vagina
- Abnormal vaginal discharge with a noticeable smell or that has blood in
- Abnormal bleeding between periods or after the menopause
- Swollen legs
- Frequent urination that burns or has blood in it
- Pelvic pain
- Feeling as though your bowels are not empty, even if they are
These could also be symptoms of an infection, but if you experience any of these, see your GP.