By Lucy Ashton 

Jackie Baillie has backed the Eve Appeal’s ‘Get Lippy’ campaign as the charity aims to improve awareness over gynaecological cancers.

It is a matter of concern that research carried out by YouGov has found that only seven percent of people had a good understanding of gynaecological symptoms before experiencing them.

The UK’s leading gynaecological cancer charity, The Eve Appeal, has published new survey findings to launch its annual fundraising and awareness-raising campaign Get Lippy, which runs throughout May.

The survey (YouGov) found a worrying lack of timely knowledge about gynaecological cancers, conditions and symptoms, with only seven percent having knowledge of gynaecological symptoms before they personally experienced them or they affected a loved one, and five percent believing they had knowledge of the gynaecological cancers (womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal).

Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) surveyed said they wished they had been taught more about the gynaecological symptoms to look out for, either at home or at school, and over a third of them (35 percent) wished they had been taught more about gynaecological health conditions.

Also significant was the lack of knowledge about Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical screening, the test which looks for the virus and helps prevent cervical cancer from developing. HPV is responsible for 99.8 percent of cases of cervical cancer, nearly 70 percent of cases of vulval cancer and over half of vaginal cancers. Less than a quarter of women surveyed felt they had a good understanding of cervical screening before it happened to them or a friend or family member (23 percent), and only five percent of women had a good understanding of HPV.

The HPV vaccination is offered to all children aged 12 and 13 at school in Year 8, and for people aged up to 25 through GP practices. It doesn’t protect against all strains of HPV so attending cervical screening appointments when invited, as well as getting any worrying symptoms checked by a doctor, is still vital.

Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton constituency MSP, pictured right, said: “It is alarming that so few people have knowledge of the symptoms of gynaecological cancers. Early intervention is the key to ensuring that patients have a better chance of recovery. I thank the Eve Appeal for all the work they are doing to tackle this and raise awareness which could ultimately save lives.”

Athena Lamnisos, The Eve Appeal CEO, says: “These results highlight a worrying gap in both knowledge and awareness. When it comes to health issues, we know that fear, stigma and embarrassment are reduced when a subject is normalised and understood – that basic health education needs to start at an early age. That’s why Get Lippy is such an important campaign – we need to help everyone have normal conversations about gynaecological issues. Knowing basic information about signs, symptoms and cancer risk factors such as the HPV virus, is vital to supporting people to keep themselves well.”

Karen Hobbs, Get Lippy ambassador and cervical cancer advocate says: “I didn’t know anything about HPV until the moment my doctor told me that I had cervical cancer, caused by a high-risk strand of HPV, HPV18. I was 24, and had been given very little sex education at school, let alone any gynae health information as a young adult. I was too old for the HPV vaccine and too young for a cervical screening test, so very much caught in the middle.

“I feel sad and frustrated that I only learned about gynae cancers when being diagnosed with one, and I know I’m not alone in that. I remember telling someone that I had cervical cancer, they asked ‘how do you get that?’ – a little phrase I say when telling this story is, ‘would they have asked the same, if I said breast, bowel or brain?’ – there is an immediate curiosity and secrecy attached to having a gynaecological cancer, and when I explained that it was caused by HPV, they said ‘but I thought you had a boyfriend?’. Coping with a cancer diagnosis at 24 was hard enough, but having to explain and almost defend myself because of the type of cancer I had, is something that nobody should have to go through. We need to educate everyone on HPV and the related cancers, to reduce the misinformation and stigma surrounding these subjects.”

The Eve Appeal is the only UK charity raising awareness and funding research into the prevention and earlier diagnosis of all five gynecological cancers- ovarian, womb, cervical, vaginal and vulval. It was set up to save lives by funding ground-breaking research focused on developing effective methods of risk prediction, earlier detection and screening for these little-know and under-funded cancers. The world-leading research that we fund is ambitious but our vision is simple; a future where gynaecological cancers are diseases of the past.

The YouGov plc survey was conducted online.  Total sample size was 2078 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th and 31st March 2023.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Other statistics are from Cancer Research UK.

Get Lippy Throughout May: The Eve Appeal invites everyone across the UK to get involved by buying a participating product, online or in store, to help support their work trying to stop gynae cancers before they start. For every supporting product sold, at least 10% will be donated to The Eve Appeal to help fund vital research, raise awareness and keep their specialist information nurse service open to help people with their gynae concerns.

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