Gynaecological cancer. How much do you know about it?
...Yeah, we didn’t know too much either! Which is why late last year we chatted with very inspiring woman and the founder of the Talk Peach Foundation, Tash Crosby, so we could learn a little bit more and understand how to protect ourselves.
This is IMPORTANT stuff - like the fact that one New Zealander dies every 48 hours of ovarian cancer alone (that's more more than melanoma).
Please read our interview with Tash below - you won't regret it.
How did Talk Peach start and what is it all about?
I launched Talk Peach because I’ve been there, and I very nearly wasn’t here to tell the tale. Diagnosed in 2016 with ovarian cancer, I am one of only 15% of people caught at stage one; 85% of those diagnosed are caught in the later stages of the disease when treatment options are limited, and rates of survival extremely poor.
When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I was shocked at the lack of public awareness surrounding gynaecological disease: its signs, symptoms and treatment.
Tash Crosby, founder of Talk Peach. Retrieved from https://www.talkpeach.org.nz/
We are here to educate the public on the early and often subtle signs of gynaecological cancers, and to empower people to advocate for their health. We’re also here to help those who have been diagnosed, to ask the right questions, and advocate for themselves if they aren’t being listened to.
Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to advocate for gynaecological cancers?
Out of the 1000 New Zealanders diagnosed per year with a gynaecological cancer, a third of them will have ovarian cancer – the deadliest type – with an average five year survival rate of around 40 per cent. To compare, breast cancers have a five year survival rate of more than 80 per cent.
Most of us have heard of cervical cancer, because of our national three yearly screening program, but as for the other four gynaecological cancers (ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulval) there is no screening available and until recently little information publicly on them.
It is heartbreaking to see that gynaecological cancers remain largely in the dark. A recent survey of people diagnosed with ovarian cancer found that 90% of them couldn't name a single symptom prior to their diagnosis.
Also, that our community is getting diagnosed with cervical cancer, a largely preventable cancer type. Evidence shows that routine screening which can detect precancerous abnormalities can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 90%.
1 New Zealander dies every 24 hours from gynaecological cancer, and for years the silence and stigma around it has been vast. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 my family had never heard of it, I had never even heard of it.
How can we detect gynaecological cancers?
Because there is no regular screening tool for ovarian, vulval, vaginal or uterine cancer it is super important that people know the signs and symptoms and feel empowered to advocate for themselves when things feel ‘off’ for them. Acting early leads to early diagnosis and ultimately better survival outcomes!
We often think of gynaecological health as just one big thing, but in fact these 5 cancers are separate and they all have their own individual signs and symptoms. Please check out our website for more information on the individual cancers their signs, symptoms and risk factors.
Some of the most common signs to look out for are:
What if I have the HPV immunisation, do I still need to get smear tests?
Just because you may have had HPV immunisation this does not mean that you are protected from developing cervical cancer. So yes – get that smear!
What should I do if I have concerns about my own gynaecological health?
I cannot stress enough the importance of acting upon changes and concerns. It saves lives. DON'T EVER feel silly about getting something that's bothering you checked out. And, if your symptoms persist after a visit to your GP - always return or seek a second opinion.
There seems to be more openness around these once ‘uncomfortable’ conversations regarding women’s health especially when it comes to periods or menopause. But why is gynaecological health still taboo? This stigma often causes women to ignore health concerns. The fear of embarrassment can leave them suffering in silence. I've met ladies who have said their grandmother or mother died from one of the gynaecological cancers and they would tell people it was stomach cancer; simply due to the stigma.
We must break down this culture of silence surrounding gynaecological health.
It’s also heartbreaking to see that gynaecological cancers remain largely in the dark.
What is the mission of Talk Peach? What is your goal for New Zealand’s future when it comes to gynaecological cancers?
Our mission moving forward is to:
Talking taboos and putting an end to a culture of silence and stigma around gynaecological health is a huge part of what we are about at Talk Peach.
Breast cancer awareness is a model to aspire to. It has taken years, but men talk about it, rugby teams wear pink, monuments light up to honour the fight against it. Talking about mammograms and breasts is socially fine now. We must do the same with talking about gynaecological health, vaginas and vulvas. We applaud the continued efforts in the fight against breast and believe with a similar commitment we can achieve the same for gynaecological cancers. And… let’s face it - the vagina is an amazing body part!
Finally, what’s inspiring you at the moment, in everyday life?
I am inspired by the shifts in thinking towards gynaecological health, the open conversations, the fact that chatting vulvas and vaginas is now becoming less taboo, that we can share and educate!
I'm loving the open celebration of pleasure, embracing sexuality, and the further dialogue around areas of health that have been long left overlooked.
The celebration of body, that we are finally becoming more size inclusive in fashion
That summer is peeping around the corner and the planning of a camping trip with friends looks soon to be a reality, feeling super grateful to have my freedoms, I look at other countries where freedoms are so few and far between and feel very privileged to be living in Aotearoa. There are always those worse off than you, it's about the little things - family, friends and getting out into nature away from the hustle bustle.
Check out Talk Peach online here: https://www.talkpeach.org.nz/
Enjoy reading this journal entry? Check out the rest of our Journal here
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|Size||Bust (cm)||Waist (cm)||Hips (cm)|
There are three body measurement points that you need to know to ensure a great fit – bust, waist, and hips.
When taking your body measurements, wear the undergarments you normally wear for the most accurate results. Use a flexible tape measure, or a piece of string and ruler, and hold it around each body point so it is comfortably snug. If the tape is cutting into your flesh, it is too tight.
To ensure an accurate measurement around your body, keep the measuring tape as level as possible from front to back. We recommend measuring yourself in front of a mirror so you can check this from a side view. If you can, get a friend to help you to ensure the most accurate measurements.
Bust: Wrap the measuring tape around your back and where the tape meets across the fullest point of your bust is your bust measurement.
Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your natural waist, the slimmest part of your torso, pulling the ends to the front. Where they meet is your waist measurement.
Hips: Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your bottom – this is usually low down towards your thighs. As with your bust and waist measurements, where the tape meets is your hip measurement.
Length: To measure the length of individual garments against your body it is best to measure down the centre of your back. To do this, start the measuring tape at either the base of your neck for dresses and tops, or at your waist for skirts. Measure down your body to the measurement listed in the garment description. This will show you where the garment comes to on you. When you are measuring for length, remember to make sure you are standing completely upright – it is best to have someone help you with this. Alternatively, compare the measurement with the length of a garment you already have.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Annabelle – firstname.lastname@example.org, she is here to help.