Q&A on: gynaecological cancer

John Butler, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon at The Royal Marsden, and Medical Director of the Lady Garden Foundation talks about the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers and what's being done to treat the disease.

Dr John Butler, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon at The Royal Marsden

What is the definition of gynaecological cancer? 

Gynaecological cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman's reproductive organs. 

What are the different types?

There are five types of gynaecological cancer: ovarian, cervical, womb, vaginal and vulval. Womb cancer is the most common and vaginal is the rarest, with 9,400 cases and 250 new cases diagnosed respectively in the UK every year. 

What, largely speaking, are the main signs or symptoms of gynaecological cancer? 

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge is common across many gynaecological cancers but there are other potential symptoms to be aware of too, such as abdominal bloating, swelling, pelvic pain, and needing to urinate frequently. 

However, awareness of their signs and symptoms is low. Plus, these symptoms are, more often than not, signs of different conditions so gynaecological cancers can easily be overlooked. 

It's vital women of all ages get to know their bodies and what to look for, as the earlier a cancer is found, the easier it is to treat and the higher the chance of successful treatment. This means it is really important to get anything unusual for you that persists checked out by a GP. 

Any stats or figures on how many people get it in the UK, survival rates etc? 

Over 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year and survival rates vary between the different types. For example, around 72% of women survive womb cancer for ten or more years. However, ovarian cancer has the poorest outcome of the five, with just 35% surviving for ten or more years. 

57 women will be diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer today and 21 women will die from the disease. The Lady Garden Foundation funds ground-breaking research via the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity into the treatment of gynaecological cancer at The Royal Marsden, helping to improve the lives of patients with the disease in the UK and beyond. 

Where can those who are suffering from it find out more information? 

Often it's helpful to hear from others who have been through a diagnosis. You can find the experiences of women with gynaecological cancer on The Royal Marsden's website, including these videos of patients who were all diagnosed at the age of 27. There's also more information on The Royal Marsden's website about these types of cancers, including ovarian cancer, and the work of the gynaecological unit.

You can also find out more on the Lady Garden Foundation's website


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