LIFESTYLE

Vaginal Cancer: How To Spot The Signs And Identify The Five Varieties

02/09/2014 15:22 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 15:59 BST

Vagina – there, we said it.

While not your standard topic for dinner time conversation, gynaecological health is an important issue amongst women that is often brushed under the carpet and forgotten about – until it's too late.

New figures from The Eve Appeal reveal that young women in the UK are less educated and more embarrassed to discuss symptoms and issues surrounding vaginas – and in particular, gynaecological cancers – than their elder counterparts.

vaginal cancer types

The statistics released show that 65% of young women have a problem using the words vagina or vulva, whilst one in five women aged 16-25 years surveyed couldn’t name a single correct symptom of vaginal cancer. Meanwhile, 40% of 16-25 year olds resort to using code names such as ‘lady parts’ or ‘women’s bits’ to discuss gynaecological health.

The final, and perhaps most shocking, statistic of all is that on a simple diagram - just half of women aged 26-35 were able to label the vagina accurately.

Ladies, we need to sort this out.

As part of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, we've got the lowdown on the five types of vaginal cancer including what they are, who's at risk and how to spot them:

Womb Cancer

vaginal cancer

What is it?

Cancer of the lining of the womb. Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK and is on the increase each year due to changes in our lifestyles. Over 7,500 women are diagnosed every year in the UK.

What are the symptoms?

:: Vaginal bleeding after the menopause

:: Vaginal bleeding between periods

Cervical Cancer

cervical cancer

What is it?

Cervical cancer develops on the cervix which connects a woman's womb and her vagina. It can affect women of all ages but is most common in women between 30-45 years of age and is very rare in women under 25 years of age.

What are the symptoms?

:: Any unusual bleeding from the vagina particularly: after sex and after menopause when periods have stopped

:: Persistent vaginal discharge that is blood stained or smells unpleasant

Ovarian Cancer

ovarian cancer

What is it?

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in women and accounts for more UK deaths than all of the other gynaecological cancers put together. It is mainly prevalent in post-menopausal women over 50, however it can affect women of any age.

What are the symptoms?

:: Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain

:: Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating - not bloating that comes and goes

:: Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly

:: Urinary symptoms - needing to pass water more often than usual

Vaginal Cancer

vaginal cancer

What is it?

Vaginal cancer is a very rare disease – just 250 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year – and is most commonly diagnosed in women over 60 years of age. Vaginal cancer occurs when the cells in the lining of the vagina change – often these changes are not enough to make the cells cancerous, however if left untreated they could be harmful.

What are the symptoms?

:: Bleeding when you are not having a period or bleeding after the menopause- this is the most common symptom. You may also have bleeding after sex

:: Vaginal discharge that smells or is blood stained - about 3 out of 10 women (30%) have this symptom

:: Pain during sexual intercourse

:: A lump or growth in the vagina that you or your doctor can feel - up to 1 in 10 women (10%) have this

:: A vaginal itch that won't go away

:: As many as 20 per cent of women diagnosed with vaginal cancer have no symptoms at all and many of the above symptoms are far more likely to be due to other conditions, such as infections

Vulval Cancer

vaginal cancer types

What is it?

Cancer of the vulva is one of the more rare cancers with just over 1,000 cases diagnosed in the UK each year. Around 80% of vulval cancers are diagnosed in women over 60, but the stage before the cancer has developed tends to be diagnosed earlier, in women aged 30-50.

What are the symptoms?

:: A lasting itch

:: Pain or soreness

:: Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva

:: An open sore or growth visible on the skin

:: Burning pain when you pass urine

:: Vaginal discharge or bleeding

:: A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour

:: A lump or swelling in the vulva

Next time you consider putting off going to your GP because of a vagina-based illness, think again. It could be the best decision you make...