Hi Friends, I hope you’re keeping well and safe!
Straight into this week’s blogpost – it’s all about Female Pelvic Oncology – both awareness and rehab issues. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m passionate about women’s health – especially at midlife – this is when we not only head into and through menopause but also when we start to see a rise in potentially life threatening issues – heart health, bone health and of course – cancer. In women’s health, breast cancer gets all the press (and a whole month where everything goes pink) but…do you know when Ovarian Cancer Awareness month is? Would you recognise the signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer?
Gynaecological cancers include vulvar, vaginal, cervical, uterine and ovarian cancers – but women get bladder and colorectal cancers too. If you’re working with women – at any age, but especially at midlife and beyond, you’re serving women well if you know the signs and symptoms and you share this knowledge. Most female pelvic cancers can have excellent outcomes if they’re caught early, but most aren’t diagnosed until later stages because women don’t check themselves, don’t prioritise self care or they dismiss the symptoms as being ‘just one of those things’ we deal with as we get older.
The key to lowering bad outcomes for female pelvic cancers is knowledge; prevention (stopping smoking, increasing exercise and decreasing obesity are the clear winners in this department) and if we can’t prevent them, lets at least push for early detection, treatment and hopefully, a full recovery.
What are the signs?
One of the earliest signs of vulvar or vaginal cancers can be skin changes – doing a monthly vulvar self exam means you know what#’s normal for you and you can get small changes checked out (Don’t know how? Head over here and get my free resources on how to do a self check)
Common symptoms for cervical cancer include bleeding between periods, after menopause or after sex, unusual discharge, unexplained or sudden weight loss, fatigue or loss of bladder/bowel control.
Signs of endometrial or uterine cancer include vaginal bleeding after menopause, bleeding between periods if you’re pre-menopausal, painful cramps, pelvic pain and abnormal discharge.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed later at a more advanced stage because firstly there’s no specific testing and secondly because women can dismiss symptoms like abdominal bloating, nausea or indigestion, pelvic or back pain, feeling tired, pressure in the pelvis or changes in bowel habits (how many of those have YOU had in the past month? I know, right?!) That’s why ovarian cancer is called ‘The Silent Killer’, because its just SO easy to write off these symptoms as menopausal, or being busy or stressed or.. a million different things. But its just NOT NORMAL to have these issues on an ongoing basis and as women we need to remember this!!! Self care (and knowing what’s normal for you) can literally save your life.
So what happens next?
Treatment for these cancers almost always includes surgery, often includes radiotherapy and sometimes includes chemotherapy – all of which bring their own side effects. The irony in female pelvic oncology rehab is unfortunately, that:
a. we know these cancer treatments have side effects AND we know (from a good sized body of evidence in the scientific literature) that pelvic rehab, taking a whole body approach, really works to help women live well during AND after cancer treatment
b. The barriers are – lack of women’s health pro’s skilled in understanding female pelvic oncology needs and issues, experts in appropriate manual therapies for scars and lymphatics, or exercise prescription for pelvic health, pain, mobility, strength and balance. We also have to acknowledge that there is an element of both lack of knowledge in some oncology medical professionals about the benefits of the RIGHT type of pelvic rehab as well as survivor guilt with women who have gone through pelvic oncology issues…
Women deserve better and to paraphrase Maya Angelou, ‘when we know better, we can do better.’ That’s why I’m updating and expanding the gynae oncology course that I’ve taught internationally for the past decade – I’m adding new research, new content with expanded manual therapy and exercise prescription videos and I’m going to include content on Bladder and Bowel Cancers too – including a section on living well with ostomies – from exercise to sexual health. It’s going to launch mid June and I hope you’ll join me on this journey. (There will be special opportunities for those who have already purchased my Breast Cancer Rehab course to avail of whopping discounts) Make sure you’re signed up for my newsletters AND you’re following me on Facebook or Instagram for all the details!
Have a look at this video, where I give you just a brief overview of what I’ll be covering – in the meantime CHECK YOURSELF!! And remember – knowledge is power – if you notice a change, get yourself checked.
Until next time
Onwards & Upwards