10 Things YOU Should Know About Gynaecological Cancers …

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10 Things YOU Should Know About Gynaecological Cancers …
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Posted by:
Greg Lance – Watkins
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Hi,

10 Things Women Should Know About Gynaecological Cancers

30/04/2017 17:25

Fabrice Poincelet via Getty Images

One day I will write a fun book about gynaecological cancers and looking after our vaginas. Until then, here is a short list of ten things that I think every woman (and man) should know. The icing and decoration is fun, but the cake mixture is serious. Some of the points might be blindingly obvious, in which case, sorry for being so basic. However, I hope everyone who reads this will learn at least one new thing, or be reminded of something they already know but might have forgotten. Vaginas, sex, bleeding, wombs and everything associated with what’s between our legs is not the first choice of conversation for most people, but it is for me. I had cervical cancer just over two years ago, perform comedy about the whole debacle, and now work for The Eve Appeal, a charity that raises awareness and funds for research into gynae (look at me being all snazzy and shortening the word ‘gynaecological’) cancers. This means that most of my life is spent talking about awkward lady things. And I love it. If you enjoy this post, please share it so that we can spread as much knowledge and awareness as possible.

1. There are FIVE gynaecological cancers.

That’s right, five different bits ‘down there’ that can get you entry to the cancer club. They are: womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal. Yes, the vagina and vulva are not the same thing. I like to think of the vulva as the letterbox and the vagina as the doormat.

2. If you are bleeding when you shouldn’t be, see your doctor.

Abnormal vaginal bleeding (i.e. bleeding after the menopause, in between periods or after sex) is a symptom of four out of five gynae cancers (not vulval). It’s probably nothing serious, or your boyfriend just has a huge penis, but you need to get it checked out by a doctor just in case.

3. Ovarian cancer is sneaky.

Most ovarian cancer isn’t diagnosed until it has spread outside the ovary. One of the most common symptoms is persistent abdominal bloating, aka ‘puffy tummy’. This is often misdiagnosed as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and therefore the cancer is left undiscovered for longer. If you feel bloated for three or more weeks, see your doctor and fingers crossed that you’re just a gassy bitch.

4. GO FOR YOUR SMEAR TEST.

Smear tests save thousands of lives every year in the UK. They can detect abnormal cells that if left untreated, could turn into cervical cancer. Please, please, please don’t avoid your appointment. Yes, it can be a bit awkward having a stranger give you a poke with a bit of plastic, but a few minutes could save your life. So take your knickers off and spread those legs.

5. Hashtag Don’t Judge.

Almost all cervical cancers (plus some vaginal and vulval cancers) are caused by a virus called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). There are sooo many different strands of HPV, but types 16 and 18 are the ones that can over time, turn cells in your cervix against you, which is a real bugger. HPV is caused through sexual contact. Condoms don’t protect against it entirely and you can get it from just having sex once. Therefore, if someone has HPV it doesn’t mean they are having dick for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, if they were, does it even matter? Most people who have had sex will get HPV at some point in their lives and only in very rare cases can the body not get rid of it. Then it might turn into cancer, but it might not. It’s like very unlucky and scary Russian Roulette.

6. Don’t suck, swallow or blow.

Cigarettes. Without going into boring science stuff, you’re twice as likely to get cervical cancer if you smoke, so it’s really not a good idea. I know a menthol cigarette, glass of sauvignon blanc, pub garden and outdoor heater burning the top of your head is the stuff that dreams are made of, and lord I have been guilty of living that dream. But. Just. Don’t.

7. Losing lady parts doesn’t make you less of a lady.

If you have a gynaecological cancer, chances are you will lose at least some of your ‘lady parts’. Surgery is very likely, so yes, you might have your ovaries, or womb, or cervix, or vagina or vulva partially or entirely removed. I know that’s sad and horrible, but please remember that you are no less of a woman just because you can’t carry a baby, or because you need your labia rebuilt from your arse skin. You’re amazing.

8. Make the jokes.

Oh my god it feels good to laugh, doesn’t it? It’s so much FUN to make jokes about awful things. If you don’t want to, that’s absolutely fine, but if you do laugh at the fact that you have now been fingered by more medical staff than lovers (like I have) then you are my new best friend and let’s go and drink gin.

9. Have a night in.

With yourself. Aside from being on bleeding and bloating patrol, get to know your body. Touch yourself. Yes, that means what you think it means. What does your vagina feel like when you insert your finger(s)? What do your labia feel like when you rub them in between your thumb and index finger? If you do this regularly, you will notice if there is a change and can get a doctor’s opinion if you need to.

10. Everyone handles a cancer diagnosis differently.

If you’ve had ‘that news’ then I’m really, really sorry. It’s scary and weird. Please remember that there is no right or wrong way to ‘have’ cancer. It doesn’t matter if you talk about at every opportunity or never utter a word. Just look after yourself and do whatever is right for you.

To view the original article CLICK HERE

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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Health Illiteracy Can Damage Your Survival Chances – Take An Interest & Learn The Language …

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Health Illiteracy Can Damage Your Survival Chances – Take An Interest & Learn The Language …
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Hi,

‘What’s a uterus?’ Health illiteracy could be the death of us

As a doctor I meet women who believe gynaecological cancer can be caused by promiscuity, and people who don’t know how to take their pills. Education is the remedy

It was late afternoon when I walked in to rescue my intern from a heated conversation with a man demanding antibiotics.

“Lifelong antibiotics shouldn’t be taken lightly,” the intern implored. The man countered: “When my friend lost his pancreas in an accident the doctors said he could get meningitis if he didn’t. You want me to die?”

“Your friend must have lost his spleen”, I said, stepping in. He looked at me with narrowed eyes.

“Spleen, pancreas, isn’t that the same thing?”

Placing a hand on my harrowed intern’s shoulder, I said: “No, they are different organs. You need antibiotics when you lose your spleen.” Later, when the mollified patient had left – minus antibiotics – the intern mused: “It’s incredible he doesn’t even realise they are separate organs.”

But it wasn’t incredible at all, I replied. That morning, another patient had reported being diagnosed with polyps in two places, the uterus and colon. Months later, some bleeding had caused her to become concerned about having cancer.

“I thought some of your polyps were removed. Where were they from?” I asked.

She looked nonplussed. Her husband took out a clinical photograph: “The doctor said these ones started with ‘b’ and not to worry.” Pointing to the report, I explained: “It says these benign polyps were found at your colonoscopy, so that means it’s the polyps in the uterus that are bleeding.”

There was silence before the mother-of-three asked, in all innocence: “What’s a uterus?”

I thought of these patients when I read of a poll conducted recently by the UK cancer charity, Eve Appeal, which found that one in five women mistakenly believed that gynaecological cancer was caused by promiscuity. Women in their 40s and 50s were most likely to ignore or underestimate the significance of symptoms such as persistent bloating or a change in their menstrual pattern that can be a harbinger of gynaecological cancer – which affects 20,000 women a year in the UK.

But amid the usual (and understandable) suspects of embarrassment and stigma and dismissive doctors as contributors to a delay in cancer diagnosis, what’s rarely mentioned is the widespread health illiteracy that compromises not just cancer treatment, but indeed every aspect of healthcare.

Being health literate lies at the heart of better health. It means being able to process basic health information and use it to navigate decisions. Even more simply, it means understanding how to take a pill, read an appointment slip, and follow the signs to x-ray. It means being able to calculate how much morphine to take if you need 5mg and the bottle contains 1mg/ml. Or knowing how much insulin remains in your pen if you have injected 76 units out of 100.

But as medical advances reward us with ever more sophisticated drugs and interventions, there is little to suggest that patients are any more engaged about what it means for them. Evidence abounds as to how little our patients understand of what we tell them. Many don’t know what it means to take pills on an empty stomach or have a fasting cholesterol test.

Women who are not sexually active think that they don’t need a mammogram, and that the older they get, the lower their risk of developing cancer.

Men at risk of prostate cancer confuse a digital rectal exam with a sigmoidoscopy. This week a patient asked me if antihypertensives adjusted blood pressure up or down. Another couldn’t understand how lungs are related to the heart. A third asked if a person’s genes were stored in an organ. The list is as endless as it’s dismaying; it would beggar belief if I couldn’t attest to it.

When it comes to cancer, health illiteracy joins fear and myth to create a potent brew of misunderstanding. Words like polyp, tumour and lesion mean nothing and the same goes for terminal and malignant. Unsurprisingly, “vomit” is understood by 98% of people, but “orally” by a mere third.

“Informed consent” makes a mockery of the term. Typically written in college-level English, these forms are unintelligible by the vast majority of patients. Bureaucratic demands mean consent forms are becoming longer and more detailed but it’s rare to meet a patient who understands their content. One study reported that half of older women could not answer correctly how many times out of 1,000 a flipped coin would be likely to land on its head: common answers included 25, 50 and 250. Yet we expect these women to make informed decisions about surgery for their breast cancer and understand the risk-benefit ratio of chemotherapy. In another study, nearly half of all American adults could not perform a two-step numerical task. No wonder then that the majority of patients, men and women can overestimate their benefit of chemotherapy by 20% or more.

Health illiteracy is associated with poor surveillance, delayed diagnosis, problematic compliance and worse outcomes. Health-illiterate patients ask fewer questions, visit doctors less, and rely more on anecdotes and myths. These patients are poor at self-care and they make for poor carers. Culturally and linguistically diverse groups fare worse in every way.

Health education must start in school. We need to teach children the importance of understanding how the body works. When a woman is health literate the whole family benefits. But simply producing more material won’t do if it’s not well thought out or presented in a way that fails to engage diverse groups.

Manipulating the human genome to cure disease is the holy grail of modern medicine: the New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that last year the total support given by the US National Institutes of Health to research projects that included the word “gene” was 50% greater than funding for areas mentioning the word “prevention”. What a pyrrhic victory it would be if the health-illiterate patient is still wondering where in the human body the genes dwell, but signs the consent form anyway.

To view the original article CLICK HERE

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Regards,
     Greg_L-W
Greg Lance-Watkins
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Greg_L-W.

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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins
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