Welcome back! I’m glad you have returned to read my latest post as it contains very important information about womb cancer.
As I mentioned in my first post, one of the key reasons for this blog is to spread awareness of womb cancer. While there are some more common and obvious symptoms such as vaginal bleeding after menopause, there are also others, less obvious ones. I only learnt about the range of symptoms AFTER my diagnosis. Not very helpful. So through my blog and the cycle ride, I wish to inform others of the symptoms so they will know to seek medical advice sooner than I did.
Background on Womb Cancer
Womb cancer affects the female reproductive system and is also known as uterine or endometrial cancer. Most womb cancers begin in the lining of the womb, which is called the endometrium. They can also start in the muscles surrounding the womb but this is a lot less common. This type of cancer is called uterine sarcoma and can be treated differently from womb cancer.
According to the NHS, there are about 8,475 new cases of womb cancer each year in the UK and it is the fourth most common cancer in women. The top three are breast, lung and colorectal cancers. Whilst most cases of womb cancer are in women over 40, it can affect women of any age. Especially if there is an underlying cause such as Lynch Syndrome – more of which in a later post.
An article I came across on womb cancer stated that womb cancer diagnosis have increased by roughly 50% in the last 20 years. Whilst this is very worrying, it is worth remembering that early diagnosis can save lives. When diagnosed at stage 1, around 95% of women are cured. The statistics do vary a little depending on the source. I have taken my data from the NHS information on womb cancer. You will be able to find the rest of the statistics here.
When womb cancer is diagnosed at stage one, a hysterectomy is usually enough to cure the cancer. However, when the cancer has processed to a later stage, as in my case when it was at stage three and spread to nearby lymph nodes, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also used to treat the cancer.
The Most Common Symptom
The most common signs of womb cancer involve changes to periods. Women who have been through menopause, should have any vaginal bleeding investigated. For those who have yet to go through menopause, the changes can include periods getting longer or heavier or bleeding between periods. Unfortunately, many women are like me and regard possible symptoms as something else. I thought my heavier and longer periods were simply a sign of aging and changes in my hormones. This issue is discussed further in the same article I mentioned before.
While abnormal bleeding is the most common (and supposedly) obvious sign that you should seek medical help, there are other signs, too. Signs that are easily dismissed as something else.
Seeking Medical Advice
What prompted me to visit my doctor at last, was when the periods became very painful. They had gradually become longer and heavier, but then the pain arrived. Soon I was popping painkillers to get through the day. Even I could no longer dismiss this as signs of getting closer to menopause and booked a time to see my doctor.
My doctor’s practice has several doctors and I chose a doctor who specialises in ‘female issues’. She was excellent. She referred me to further investigations to determine the cause of the bleeding rather than simply recommend pills or a coil. I have heard women, especially younger women, getting a delayed diagnosis because their doctors did not investigate the cause. I would urge anyone who goes to see a doctor due to changes to periods to insist on a referral to a gynaecologist. Do not take no for an answer because you ‘are too young to have womb cancer’. Remember, it can develop at any age and early diagnosis saves lives!
Other Symptoms of Womb Cancer
So far I have covered the symptom that is the easiest to spot, but there are other symptoms that may indicate womb cancer. One of these is back pain. I used to get regular lower back pain over the last few years or even longer. Initially more when I was on my periods, but then also during period free weeks.
I thought this was because of my job as a teacher. Bending over to help pupils and marking books in an awkward position. Only when I researched womb cancer after my diagnosis did I find out that it can be a symptom of womb cancer.
A further symptom listed for womb cancer is constant tiredness. I used to feel tired often, but then I am not alone in the teaching profession, especially towards the end of the term. Teachers in the UK are guilty of working the most overtime out of all professions and regularly work 50 hours per week or more. So, without questioning it further, I put it down to working long hours each week.
I also often felt bloated, and my bowel movements were quite irregular. These I thought were because I didn’t have the best diet. In the last months before the operation I needed to urinate more often, too. Sometimes I had to get up several times in the night to go to the toilet. So, all in all, there were many symptoms that could have prompted me to seek medical advice had I known they were indicators of something more serious rather than just my poor habits.
If you or someone you know exhibits symptoms from below, please don’t hesitate to see your doctor and ask for a gynaecological examination.
- bleeding after the menopause
- bleeding in between periods
- heavier periods than usual
- watery or bloody vaginal discharge
- long lasting bloated or swollen tummy
- feeling full quickly or loss of appetite
- pain in the lower tummy or pelvis most of the time
- peeing more often than usual or more urgently
- diarrhoea or constipation
- back pain
- feeling tired all the time
I know this might all sound a bit doom and gloom-like and some of you might right now be ticking items on the list and getting worried. However, my aim is not to scare anyone. Remember that experiencing any of the symptoms above, even vaginal bleeding, is not necessarily a sign of womb cancer. The important thing is to be aware of changes to your body and speak to your doctor about any concerns.
Until next time.
Here’s what you can do next to help me raise awareness and more money for the charity.
- Like and comment on the post.
- Help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and followers on social media.
- Make a donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, see our fundraising page.
Here are some links to find out more about womb cancer: