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Health

Womens Health: Have You Had Your Smear Test Yet?

If you don’t know what a smear test is, or you do but haven’t had one yet this year, or ever. You must read on.

September was Gyno awareness month, which means women across Australia were creating awareness not just for cervical cancer, but for a variety of different types of cancers which are related to the gynocological area.

And although having a smear test is vital to overall health in the cervical area of every woman, having proper gynaecological health is so important to prevent a variety of cancers from ever developing.

Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough awareness globally amongst women of all ages, and the stats of women being diagnosed with untreatable diseases too late, after never having a smear test are increasing, and are very real.

I spoke with Karen Livingstone from ANZGOG (Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group on why awareness of having a smear test is so important.

Karen has been involved with ANZGOG since its inception and was a member of the Board for ten years. She has dedicated her efforts to drive the need for more effective and targeted treatments for women diagnosed with ovarian and gynaecological cancers and to help tackle the sobering mortality rates. 

Karen, who has worked in the sector for 18 years, lost both her Aunt and her mother to ovarian cancer which drove her dedication to ovarian cancer research.

She herself carries BRCA 2 mutation which increases her risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer and has taken lengthy measures such as removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes after having her children to reduce her risk.

Why is it so important for women to have a smear test or any other gynaecological test for that matter?

“In Australia alone, 17 women are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer every day. There are seven types of gynaecological cancer including ovarian, uterine (endometrial), cervical, vulvar and two rare pregnancy-related cancers.

Cervical cancer is the only one which has a screening test and a vaccine. Diagnosis of other gynaecological cancers is made through blood tests, scans and biopsy.

During Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, ANZGOG is calling for women to listen to their bodies, know the symptoms for gynaecological cancers, and take control of their health by visiting a doctor if anything is out of the ordinary and persists.”

What are some of the symptoms of any gynaecological health issues?

“Symptoms for gynaecological cancer can include abdominal bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, frequent or urgent urination, constipation, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, indigestion, pain or bleeding during sexual intercourse and itching, burning, or soreness lumps, sores or wart-like growths.

If any of these symptoms are new for you and you have experienced them multiple times during a 4-week period, please discuss this with your GP. If your GP suspects your symptoms could be gynaecological cancer, please ensure that they refer you to a gynaecological oncologist as the expert in the management of these cancers.” 

How can women get actively involved in creating more awareness?

“WomanCan is the brand-new-face fundraising for gynaecological cancer research in Australia, with a mission to improve the lives of women with gynaecological cancers through fundraising for ANZGOG’s research. ANZGOG, the Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group, is the peak national gynaecological cancer research organization.

We want women in Australia and New Zealand to have the latest and best treatments for gynaecological cancer and more research is the key. Virtually every advance in cancer has been made on the back of clinical trials.”

Karen Livingstone AM – ANZGOG Development Officer

ANZGOG has 950 members who are gynaecological cancer specialists – surgeons, physicians, radiation oncologists, psychologists, nurses, trial coordinators, pure researchers and allied health. They work at the 50 plus hospitals across Australia and New Zealand that are able to conduct an ANZGOG clinical trial. 

ANZGOG collaborates globally and locally to bring the latest and best research to these hospital to improve the outcomes and quality of life for women with gynaecological cancer.

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