Why are we not prioritizing our gynecological health?

Shockingly, only 9% of women felt their gynecological health was an important concern according to a recent study

Woman holding her lower stomach in pain
(Image credit: Getty Images / Sarayuth Punnasuriyaporn / EyeEm)

We all have plenty to worry about on a day-to-day basis, especially right now. And worryingly for many of us, this means any issues we have “down there” such as missed periods can be put on the back burner or ignored completely. 

In fact, according to a new study from Superdrug only 9% of those surveyed said they would prioritize their gynecological health.

When it comes to our vaginas and wombs, changes and irregularities can be difficult to spot, making it all the more important to be proactive with our intimate health. So it’s crucial that we are all body aware, and know what symptoms to look out for and when to seek help.

Woman in the bathroom on her period

(Image credit: Getty Images / Ashley Armitage / Refinery29)

The study found that weight and skin were higher up on our list of priorities, which is likely due to us being bombarded with unrealistic body standards on the daily and women’s health not being spoken about openly enough, or many of us feeling like it’s taboo to talk about our vaginas.

Only 49% of those surveyed said they would seek help immediately, with one in five women saying that gynecological issues were too easy to ignore. Another 12% said they were too embarrassed to seek medical advice.

Most worrying of all was how many did not know what the symptoms were for gynecological cancers, which can include:

  • Constipation
  • Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating
  • Frequent or urgent need to pee
  • Itching, burning or tenderness of the vulva
  • Changes in vulva skin or colour
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Abnormal periods or spotting
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

John Butler, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon at The Royal Marsden, says knowing your own body is vital.

He said: "Over 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer every year, but awareness of their signs and symptoms is low. It's vital women of all ages get to know their bodies and what to look for as the earlier a cancer is found, the easier it is to treat and the higher the chance of successful treatment.”

John also spoke about just how important early diagnosis is, but said since the pandemic: “There has been a worrying decline in screening attendance over the last few years and in particular since the screening programme was temporarily halted in March. According to the latest figures, a quarter of women don’t attend.  

“As early detection can mean more effective treatment or even prevention, I urge women to attend their cervical screening appointment.”

Dr Sara Kayat, Superdrug Ambassador said: “The lack of knowledge around gynecological cancers is extremely worrying. We know that, when caught early, these cancers can often be effectively treated, but without a single screening test for all five gynecological cancers, we rely on patients knowing what symptoms to look out for.” 

Right now, Superdrug is in partnership with leading gynecological cancer charity The Lady Garden Foundation. The partnership “is dedicated to raising awareness of gynecological cancers, encouraging conversations and giving insights on how to spot the signs and symptoms early, as well as promoting cervical cancer screening attendance.”

Lady Garden's Chair & Co-Founder Jenny Halpern Prince says: “1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and for the 58 women diagnosed daily, 36% won’t survive.

“These statistics are why The Lady Garden Foundation exists—why we're dedicated to fundraising vital research and breaking the taboo about talking about your vagina."

So first of all, when it comes to your gynecological health there is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you are worried about anything, from abnormal periods to a sudden change in your vulva’s appearance, seek help. 

It is also your right to request a female doctor, nurse or to have a chaperone for your appointments.

Make sure you know what is normal for you and if you are worried about any of the symptoms above or have spotted any irregularities, seek medical advice for your own peace of mind and health. As Superdrug states: “Symptom awareness and early diagnosis are vital to saving lives.”

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.