Written by Kaz Molloy
On 23rd Dec 2009 I was diagnosed with womb cancer. The diagnosis came out of the blue as I was being seen by a gynaecologist for fibroids and an MRI scan to determine the size of them had picked up the cancer. I had never heard of “endometrial carcinoma” and actually had to ask where exactly the cancer was. I know now that many other women get diagnosed with a cancer they knew next to nothing about.
Womb cancer is the most common of the gynaecological cancers – according to CRUK statistics there were 9,314 new cases and 2,360 deaths in 2016. So why don’t more women know about this cancer? Sadly the misconception that this is a cancer that only post-menopausal women get still exists with some GP’s and many younger women are told that they are “too young” to get this cancer.
In 2018 Womb Cancer Support UK ran an awareness campaign called “Never Too Young” which aimed to highlight the fact that women are never too young to get womb cancer. We featured many women in their 20’s & 30’s who were diagnosed with womb cancer and one young lady was just 17 when she was diagnosed.
I started Womb Cancer Support UK (WCSUK) a small not for profit support and awareness organisation in April 2011. The organisation started out by offering support to women who had been diagnosed but it quickly became apparent that there was very little awareness of womb cancer. Most women knew about cervical cancer and the importance of going for a smear test and knew all about checking their boobs for lumps and bumps but there was no awareness campaigns for womb cancer. No leaflets in GP surgeries. No ads in newspapers or women’s magazines.
So we started raising awareness using social media. We are a very small organisation; I run it single handed from my kitchen table whilst dealing with long term side effects from the treatment I had for my womb cancer back in 2010. We may be small, but we are determined and with my army of fellow womb cancer patients and survivors we are slowly getting the word out. We had leaflets printed and are working hard to get them into as many GP surgery waiting rooms around the UK as we can. We get them into other places too like libraries, cafes, gyms, chemists, even the ladies loo in a night club in Brighton had some. By the way, if you want some for your surgery/library/pharmacist etc then feel free to get in touch and I will happily send you some.
We strongly believe that prevention is better than cure and women need to know about all the possible risk factors and symptoms. We also need GP’s to understand that this cancer can and does affect all ages.
This is why awareness, not only in women but also the medical profession is vital. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a woman say that her GP kept telling her that she was “too young” to have womb cancer. Even I was told that I was on the young side at 46!
Women of all ages who present with unusual or unexplained bleeding, which is the most common symptom, should always be listened too. The lack of information available about womb cancer doesn’t help the situation. Risk factors include never having been pregnant; having long & heavy periods; starting periods at an early age; having PCOS and being diabetic. These are the general recognised risk factors but over the years I’ve heard from many women who ticked none of these boxes which is why it is important that any unusual bleeding is checked out as that is sometimes the only symptom. For post-menopausal women, any spotting or sudden bleeding should always be taken seriously by your GP.
The work that WCSUK does is very much at a grass roots level but since we started in 2011 we have distributed almost 20,000 of our womb cancer awareness leaflets up and down the UK.
We may be a very small organisation but we have a loud voice and are determined to use it to help raise much needed awareness. The word is getting out there about womb cancer but so much more needs to be done. By working together, those of us that have an interest in gynaecological health can help each other and spread the word about what we do.
Womb Cancer Support UK was founded in April 2011 to support women who had been diagnosed with womb cancer and to also raise much needed awareness around the most common gynaecological cancer.
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Kaz Molloy is a womb cancer survivor. She lives on a small island off the west coast of Scotland with her husband and spends most of the day doing crochet and running Womb Cancer Support UK, a national not for profit womb cancer support and awareness organisation.