HOW TO STOP EMBARRASSMENT PUTTING YOUR HEALTH AT RISK
The Eve Appeal has conducted a new study that reveals almost half of healthcare professionals believe poor knowledge and embarrassment may be putting women’s lives at risk.
The new data shows the UK urgently needs to change the way we address women’s gynaecological health. Of the healthcare professionals surveyed, nearly half (47%) agree women not knowing the correct terminology for their reproductive anatomy could lead to delayed diagnosis of a gynaecological cancer.
The Eve Appeal are working to make every conversation between a patient and a healthcare professional count and as part of this year’s GET LIPPY campaign have produced some Top Tips for Talking Gynae.
The Eve Appeal’s Athena Lamnisos says, “Doctors have on average 10 minutes with a patient. We want to make sure those minutes are well used to diagnose cancer at the earliest stage. To do this, we need to make sure women have the information and confidence they need to have a conversation about their symptoms. That’s what GET LIPPY is here to do: get those conversations going and make them count.”
WHAT DOCTORS SAY
Dr Ellie Cannon, NHS GP and media doctor
“As a GP I want to get patients the help they need. Some gynaecological symptoms can be vague and hard to describe and it’s easy to see why some might be embarrassing to talk about. But we want to get the most out of the time we have with a patient in primary care. So Top Tips for Talking Gynae will really help. A lump in your vagina is very different to a lump on your vulva – make sure you can explain the difference.”
Dr Louise Newson, GP with a specialism in menopause
“Being open and honest about any gynaecological symptoms will make a real difference to women’s health. Women have suffered in silence for too long and are often embarrassed talking about these types of symptoms. However, working as a doctor there is nothing that embarrasses me! It is so much easier when women are prepared for their consultations and talk openly about all symptoms. Being able to make a prompt diagnosis usually leads to earlier treatment being initiated and then less suffering.”
Dr Bella Smith, NHS GP, runs an online women’s health forum
‘My experience as a woman and a doctor tells me that women need to take control of their health journey and be proud of what we are. We need to be able to confidently describe our own anatomy without feeling shame or embarrassment and be able to teach our children to do the same. This knowledge and understanding can only empower women and ultimately save lives. I want to have good conversations with my patients where we can get to the point and understand what is concerning them. This means better knowledge and better language.’
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of www.patient.info
“There are lots of reasons women don’t consult their doctor soon enough with gynae symptoms. They include embarrassment and lack of understanding about what a change might mean. But delay can literally sometimes be deadly. Your doctor is far more likely to have time to deal with your problem thoroughly if you have all the information you need to hand, and if you don’t go in with a long list of unrelated problems. Top Tips for Talking Gynae is an invaluable way to help you ensure you get the answers you need.”
Dr Christine Ekechi, Consultant Gynaecologist, Imperial College
“Opening up the conversation around women’s health starts with us talking openly and without embarrassment about female anatomy, understanding what is normal and recognising what is not. The conversations involve all of us, men and women. This is how we break taboos surrounding women’s health that exist in our cultural groups, between our friends and family and ultimately, within ourselves.”
”As a gynaecologist I want women to know that there’s no area that off-limits in my consultation room. It doesn’t matter if you know the right terminology, if something’s bothering you, you need to let me know so that I can help. But that also requires knowing when something’s not right. Ladies, get to know what’s normal for you! It’s the easiest way that we can begin to tackle the poor health outcomes associated with women’s health and gynae cancers in particular.”
Clare Baumhauer, diagnosed with vulval cancer
“When I visited my doctor I didn’t know I had a vulva, I thought it was a vagina and so right from the offset I was telling him the wrong information. If I could go back in time I would. I was describing an itch ‘down there’ but neither he nor I said the word vulva. I was embarrassed as I was young and it was a male doctor so after I described my symptoms I was glad he didn’t ask to look.”