How often do you think about the way you look? How often do you think about your gynaecological health?
If you’re a woman, the answer to the former might be more than the latter. According to a new study by beauty brand Superdrug, women are more concerned with appearances than gynae health.
Before we judge women on shallowness, let’s not forget the societal pressure placed on them to be presentable by Western beauty ideals. Is it any wonder that body image concerns take up so much brain space?
The study found that only 9% of women consider gynaecological health to be an important health condition, with weight (19%) and skin (10%) ranking as higher health priorities.
It surveyed more than 2,000 women and found that one in two women wouldn’t seek professional advice immediately if they were worried, and one in five said gynaecological health issues are easy to ignore.
This is partly because 12% find it too embarrassing to talk about the subject and 13% wouldn’t know how to identify anything was wrong.
With September being Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, Superdrug is calling on more women to be vigilant with their reproductive health and look out for abnormalities.
Each year in the UK, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer. Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month provides an important opportunity to draw attention to this women’s health issue and offer vital information on cancer risks, warning signs, and prevention strategies.
All gynaecological cancers develop in a woman’s reproductive tract. The five different gynaecological cancers are cervical, ovarian, vaginal, vulval and womb (uterine). Each has its own symptoms, frequency among women and characteristics.
Ovarian cancer, for example, affects 7,400 women in the UK a year and, after treatment, it often returns resistant to chemotherapy. Vaginal cancer affects just 250 women in the UK annually – and is so rare that it is even more under-researched.
But they all have one thing in common: the earlier each is detected and treated, the greater chance a woman has of surviving.
There isn’t a single screening test for all five gynaecological cancers, says Dr Sara Kayat, so “we rely on patients knowing what symptoms to look out for”.
“We know that, when caught early, these cancers can often be effectively treated,” she adds.
Superdrug started working with The Lady Garden Foundation this year to boost training in spotting symptoms for such cancers. “Often symptoms can be subtle and misattributed, so having confidence in your own body and recognising when something isn’t right, is crucial,” they said.
Of the people surveyed, a significant number of people didn’t know the following could be a symptom of cancer:
Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating
Frequent or urgent need to pee
Itching, burning or tenderness of the vulva
Changes in vulva skin or colour
Abdominal or back pain
Abnormal periods or spotting
Pelvic pain or pressure
Abnormal vaginal discharge
If you experience persistent symptoms, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.