The words young women need to start saying to fight cancer

Katie Grant@kt_grant
Monday 17 August 2015 09:00

GPs must do more to help young women overcome their fears about discussing gynaecological problems that could be indicative of ovarian cancer, experts have said – after a survey showed most of them were afraid to even say the word “vagina”.

Embarrassment and fear of intimate examination mean many women in their teens and early 20s are also reluctant to talk about sexual-health issues, turning to the internet for self-diagnosis instead. “Ovarian cancer is more common in older women but it also occurs in young women. It is crucial these women report these symptoms early,” said Professor Christina Fotopoulou, a consultant gynaecological oncologist at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital in London.

“We as doctors should encourage women to talk to us and help them overcome their fears. It is our job and could save lives.”

Professor Fotopoulou was speaking in light of a study showing women aged 18-24 are four times less likely than those aged 55-64 to go to a doctor with a sexual health issue. More than half (57 per cent) of younger women would turn to Google instead of seeking medical help and just under half (48 per cent) are afraid of being intimately examined, according to the research published today by Ovarian Cancer Action.

Nearly half (44 per cent) of women in the younger age range said they were too embarrassed to talk about sexual health issues, with two thirds (66 per cent) admitting they would be embarrassed to say the word “vagina” to a doctor or nurse, compared with just 11 per cent of women aged 55 to 64.

More: Gynaecological cancer awareness month quiz: Can you label a vagina?