Half of men are unable to correctly identify the vagina on a diagram of a woman’s body and nearly two-thirds (61%) struggle to pick out the vulva.
That’s according to new research from The Eve Appeal, which also found that over half of men (56%) are not comfortable discussing gynaecological health issues with their partner at all, while 21% of 18 to 44 year old men confess it’s simply “too embarrassing”.
The cancer charity aims to highlight that men hold a vital key to raising awareness around gynaecological health because they could potentially spot physical changes in a female partner.
Currently, only one in five men feel sufficiently confident to mention a change in their partner’s vagina and just 17% know how the vagina really works.
The study of 1,000 people was conducted to raise awareness for Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, which takes places in September.
Worryingly, almost one in five men (17%) said that they know nothing about gynaecological health issues and don’t feel they need to know “as it is a female issue”.
The picture is equally concerning among women. When quizzed about particular symptoms, 19% admitted they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had abnormal vaginal bleeding - one of the key symptoms across all five gynaecological cancers - while 42% of 18 to 24 year old women said they would keep it to themselves.
According to the survey, just over a fifth of women have spoken to their friends or family about gynaecological health including how to recognise the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer.
Only 19% of women suggested that they would like to talk to their partners about the signs or symptoms of a gynaecological health issue they may be experiencing.
The survey revealed just half of women (50%) would seek help for persistent bloating, while 15% wouldn’t even go to the doctor if they found a lump or growth in their vagina. This rises to 29% among 25 to 34 year olds.
More than 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed each year with a gynaecological cancer, which equates to 58 diagnoses each day. Yet, as shown by the new research, awareness levels among both women and men are startlingly low.
That’s why The Eve Appeal is highlighting the issue, urging both men and women to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer.
Whether it’s their partner, sister, mother or friend, the charity is calling on men
to support and encourage the women in their lives to see a healthcare professional if they are concerned.
The Eve Appeal’s chief executive, Athena Lamnisos, said: “These survey results show shockingly low levels of awareness of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer among both men and women. For too many men, women’s bodies are still a taboo subject, shrouded in mystery.
“We know from the many calls that we receive at The Eve Appeal from men, that they can play a vital role in identifying the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, prompting their partners to visit the GP. Early diagnosis really is key and can save lives.
“This is not about having better sex! It’s about men helping women to look after their health. Gynae awareness and taboo busting are all of our responsibility, men and women alike.”
According to the charity, key symptoms of gynaecological health issues to look out for include:
:: Irregular or unexpected bleeding e.g. between periods, after menopause or after sex.
:: Vaginal discharge that smells or may be blood stained
:: Pain during intercourse
:: Changes to the appearance of the skin of the vulva
:: Changes in bowel or urinary habits that lasts for more than a month e.g. bloating or needing to pass water more often than usual.