Tackling taboos to save lives

Tackling taboos to save lives - how straight talking can help

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I signed up to the Go Red Trek in aid of the Eve Appeal with my dear friend, Rebecca Taylor. But I certainly wasn’t expecting to wake the residents of genteel Cotswold village, Bourton-on-the-Water, by shouting “Vagina” at 6:45am! This wasn’t borne out of a desire to shock, however – it was to herald the start of a day which was all about breaking taboos to save lives.

For those of you that don’t know (I didn’t until recently), the Eve Appeal is a charity dedicated to raising awareness of and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers that affect women. Each year in the UK, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a form of gynaecological cancer. This equates to 58 women receiving this life-changing news every day. Sadly 21 women will die from a gynaecological cancer every day.

Some of these cancers we’ve started to hear more about such as ovarian and cervical cancer. But how often do you hear people talk about vulval and vaginal cancers? The intimate nature of these words often makes people feel uncomfortable, but ultimately, it’s all just anatomy and in my view, the benefits of raising awareness outweigh any embarrassment.

I had the privilege of trekking 25 kilometres across the Cotswolds with a group of men and women who are helping to break these taboos. Many of them have a personal connection with gynaecological cancers, either as a patient, relative, friend or clinician. Over the course of the walk, I learned more about the work of the charity, and the seemingly indiscriminate way gynae cancers can strike women, even at a young age. Common to most participants was that they had struggled to find accurate information in their hour of need – until they’d found the Eve Appeal.

Charities like the Eve Appeal are small and specialist. They’re working extremely hard to raise awareness and encourage women to know the signs to look out for and how to get help. They’ve already launched some brave and innovative campaigns which include:

  • ‘Take the vulva vow’ – a call to use the correct terminology to raise understanding, awareness and tackle shame
  • The ‘Get Lippy’ campaign which sees the Eve Appeal partner with big brands to raise funds and get people talking about gynae health.

We all have a role to play here – men and women can help get the message out and communicate to save lives. As with most cancers, when detected early, survival rates are much improved.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that we all need to wander the leafy streets of the UK’s towns and villages shouting ovaries, cervix or such like. But if you see a post from the Eve Appeal about a gynae cancer – be brave and share it. Start a conversation with your friends and take a look at the Eve Appeal website to see what else you can do to help.

Oh – and it’s not too late to sponsor us – I have the aching muscles to prove we stayed the course!


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