When Daloni Carlisle began experiencing long and heavy periods approaching her 50th birthday, she didn't consult her GP for months.
"I was premenopausal and thought it may be related to my thyroids," she tells The Huffington Post UK.
"The possibility of cancer didn’t really cross my mind."
Carlisle, from Sevenoaks, was eventually diagnosed with womb cancer.
By the time she had visited her GP and been diagnosed, the cancer was locally advanced and surgeons were not able to remove all of it. As a result, she was forced to have additional surgery, chemotherapy and external and internal radiotherapy treatment.
She says "unwillingness to talk about" female health was the main reason she delayed seeing a doctor. She was also put off by the thought of having to have an internal examination.
Carlisle is not alone in delaying seeking help for symptoms relating to cancer.
New research from the Eve Appeal shows that a third of women believe symptoms of gynaecological cancer are "not serious enough" to warrant a visit to a GP. Yet in reality, gynaecological cancers are the second most common cancer among women in the UK.
What's more, nearly three quarters of women (71%) have experienced a symptom of gynaecological cancer such as persistent abdominal pain and discomfort during sex.
One fifth (19%) would wait four weeks or more before visiting a health professional about the main symptom associated with all gynaecological cancers – irregular vaginal bleeding.
After initially ignoring her irregular periods, Carlisle says finding out she had cancer was a "complete bombshell".
"The film 'Gravity' was out at the time and I kept thinking I was just like Sandra Bullock’s character, flying around in space. It was very disorientating and very frightening," she says.
Despite initial treatment looking successful, in November 2015 the cancer returned, meaning Carlisle required intensive radiotherapy to shrink the cancer.
She has also recently been diagnosed as carrying the BRCA1 gene mutation - meaning the female side of her family, including her young daughters, could be at an increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer in the future.
"Initially it felt like a real shock. I went for testing almost to rule it out. It’s a gene that’s associated with breast cancer, not womb cancer, but in fact knowledge is power," she says.
Carlisle is now working closely with health professionals to "find a way forward", but due to the delay in her initial diagnosis she faces an uncertain future.
She now wants to warn others of the dangers of ignoring symptoms so that other women can avoid being in her position.
"I think the really important thing for all women of all ages is to know your own body and know what’s normal. And when it isn’t normal go to the GP," she says.
"We all need to get more confident talking about our bodies, particularly our genealogical health."
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To help women like Carlisle, The Eve Appeal launched a new nurse-led gynaecological cancer information service, called Ask Eve, which will deliver information via confidential telephone calls and email support.
The service will offer the opportunity for women, their families and health care providers to have direct access to a clinical nurse specialist.
The HealthUnlocked forum will be moderated and will provide women with up-to-date information about the latest research and evidence on gynaecological cancer.
The Eve Appeal’s gynaecological cancer nurse specialist Tracie Miles, who will lead the service, says: "Women know their own bodies better than anyone else so my advice to them is: trust your instinct and if you are experiencing anything unusual then Ask Eve. The service is free and confidential and no question is a daft or embarrassing question.”
Natalie Percival, president of the National Forum Gynaecology-Oncology Nurses adds that Ask Eve will "fill a big gap in information around some of the gynaecological cancers".
"As a specialist nurse, I know that women need an expert source of information to turn to when they have worries about gynaecological signs and symptoms," she says.
"Awareness of gynaecological cancers is very low and often women ignore worrying symptoms before getting advice from a medical professional. This is why an information service that provides up to date information and that makes it easier for a woman seeking help is a great addition to the support that’s currently available.”
Find out more about Ask Eve here.
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