'Can you say the word vagina without being embarrassed?' I'm aware that many women, including some of my friends and family, might hesitate when asked that question. But through my role as CEO of The Eve Appeal, I know just how vital it is to raise awareness and understanding of these cancers, alongside investing in research, in order to remove all the stigma and embarrassment that surrounds them.
It's time to open up about gynaecological cancers. As a charity, we're way ahead of the game and we've been vocal about vaginas for a long time now - so it's great to see momentum building and support growing for our campaign. The important thing now is to make sure the chatter-factor - and especially celebrity endorsement for our message - translates into women having meaningful, honest conversations, and understanding the signs and symptoms of the five gynae-cancers - womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal.
It's a widespread misconception that these cancers come without warning or symptom - stealthy, silent, evil geniuses. That's just not the case. They aren't silent at all. Often, women just aren't listening closely enough. Awareness is far too low. The clinicians who work on our world-leading research programmes say that more often than not, the first time a woman finds out about the existence of any of these cancers, is the point when she's being told that she's got one of them.
So it's good news that September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month - an initiative led by The Eve Appeal. It does exactly what it says on the tin. We raise awareness, giving women information about the signs and symptoms of the five cancers and bust the myths and taboos that stifle open conversations about these diseases. We do this without using euphemisms, without judgement and without forgetting why talking is so important.
Not having those conversations can cost lives. So what's stopping us on this one? The dictionary definition of vagina is very straightforward: 'the part of a woman's body that connects her outer sex organs to her womb'. It's an anatomical term, and should be used without shame. Yet this is far from being the case. Not only are many women embarrassed, they are completely lacking in information. Our work to increase awareness aims to change that.
We are ambitious for a future where no woman delays seeing her GP due to the intimate nature of her symptoms. A future where women of all ages know about the early signs and symptoms of all five gynaecological cancers and know where to go for more information. At The Eve Appeal, we encourage all women to listen to their bodies, look out for any changes and see their doctor the moment something does not feel right.
It's good to talk. Join us in opening up this Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month and encourage your mums, aunties, sisters, friends, and even colleagues to start talking about vaginas.
Let's get vocal for vaginas.
Athena Lamnisos is CEO of The Eve Appeal.