Yearly Gynaecological check-ups for every woman in the UK, from adolescence. #checkMEup
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Hi, my name is Dafina and at the age of 35 my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with stage 2 womb cancer which had already spread to my ovaries. The only option to save my life was to have a total hysterectomy which meant the removal of my uterus and both ovaries. Womb cancer deprived me of having my own children. I was also put into immediate surgical menopause after the operation.
Many women have lost their lives due to late diagnosis. I am lucky to be alive to write this, but what about those who are diagnosed at an even later stage than I was, or those who have a more severe grade of cancer?
At the moment the only test available for a woman’s reproductive system is cervical screening (smear test) usually carried out by a nurse every 3 years from age 25 to 64. This test is very important but more needs to be done as it only tests for abnormal cervical cells that could develop into cervical cancer, which is just 1 out of the 5 gynaecological cancers.
According to Cancer Research UK, 3,000 women are diagnosed every year with Cervical cancer alone. But cervical screening does not check for early signs of:
- Womb cancer (9,300 women diagnosed each year)
- Ovarian cancer (7,300 women diagnosed each year)
- Vulval cancer (1,300 women diagnosed each year)
- Vaginal cancer (240 women diagnosed each year)
There is no screening or gynaecological check at all for the cancers above. How many of these thousands of women were diagnosed too late?
In February 2014, before my diagnosis, I had my regular cervical screening and the results showed nothing abnormal. Five months later I began to experience extreme bloating and went to my GP almost monthly. Eventually the symptoms were wrongly attributed to gluten-related bloating; my GP did not touch my abdomen once during this time. By November that year I became very unwell while I was abroad, which is when a 14cm (5.5in) tumour weighing 500g (17oz) was discovered in my womb.
If I had the opportunity to see a gynaecologist as the first point of contact and undergone a proper check-up at least once in the previous years, the growing tumour would have been noticed much earlier on, before any of the symptoms developed or had spread to other organs. I would have had it removed and I would have avoided all the consequences of the late diagnosis that I am now living with.
Currently, the UK’s approach to healthcare is reactive, not preventative. The system is symptom-driven, which relies upon us discovering an issue ourselves and then going to our GP; in some cases, we need to convince them that we are ill. Only if they decide that further investigation is required, then we get referred to a specialist. As GP appointments are only 10 minutes long, there is very little time for a woman to discuss an issue properly and be understood, never mind for the GP to carry out any kind of check or examination.
In summary, our lives are in the hands of our GP.
Every year in the UK, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a form of gynaecological cancer. Sadly, over 7,600 women will die from a gynaecological cancer every year, which is 21 women each day. (Cancer Research UK)
For example, UK ovarian cancer survival rates lag significantly behind countries such as Thailand, Turkey and Romania. France’s ovarian cancer survival rate is 43.5% whereas Great Britain is only 36.2%. (Ovarian Cancer UK)
We need to change this!
In many other countries throughout Europe and worldwide, girls and women have access to yearly gynaecological examinations. One such example is France, just across the channel from us, where gynaecological appointments take place directly with your gynecologist and annual check-ups usually start from adolescence.
In the UK it is not usual to visit a gynaecologist for any kind of check-up, but this should be as normal as visiting your dentist.
The benefits of having regular gynaecological check-ups are:
- Early diagnosis, where issues can be highlighted before becoming too serious or even before we realise something is wrong, often resulting in a longer life!
- They usually involve breast and pelvic examinations (including ovaries) to check for masses, growths, fibroids, endometriosis or other abnormalities.
- Cervical screening as per the current system.
- Giving girls and women a chance to openly discuss any gynaecological concerns with a specialist such as: periods, sex, contraception, fertility, pregnancy, menopause (and osteoporosis).
- Finally, it would break the taboo around the subject of our reproductive system.
The best protection is early detection! Cancer can be treated, and the chance of survival greatly improved simply if discovered early on.
Please support me in this petition to help save the lives of our: sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, girlfriends and friends!
The time to change UK Gynaecological Health is NOW, before many more lives are lost.
Please sign and share my petition.
To follow this movement visit my Instagram page - @checkMEupUK, @dafimalov
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