A LITTLE niggle there and a bit of blood there – it’s common for women to have occasional problems in their private parts.
But some symptoms such as in the vagina, abdomen and pevlic should never be ignored because they could be something sinister.
Due to the Covid pandemic, there are worries that many women are living with undiagnosed conditions.
For example, cervical cancer screening rates fell during lockdowns.
And many more are now seeking help for problems they may have previously ignored or struggle to see a doctor for.
NHS England figures from the beginning of September 2021 showed the waiting list grew in July for the 14th month in a row.
It rose by 150,000 and is 1.6million more than a year ago, with 290,000 people still waiting a year or more.
Data also suggests women have been harder hit by the NHS backlog caused by the Covid pandemic due to increased demand for gynaecology appointments.
The number waiting to see a gynaecologist shot up 34 per cent in the last year, the Telegraph reported.
Some 380,000 women were waiting to be seen in April 2021 – up from 286,000 the year prior.
Common gynaecological conditions include endometriosis, urinary incontinence and the menopause.
Here are some of the conditions and their symptoms that suggest you should see your GP.
Endometriosis can often be brushed aside as painful periods.
It is in fact a long-term condition that causes tissue similar to the lining of the womb to grow in other places.
Endometriosis is often diagnosed after years of agony, as women have reported seeing their GP several times before finding answers.
If you have any of these symptoms, it could mean you need to press your doc:
- Pain in your lower tummy or back that’s usually worse during your period
- Period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
- Pain during or after sex
- Pain when peeing or pooing during your period
- Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Heavy periods
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects millions of women – around one in 10 in the UK.
More than half of these women do not have any symptoms, the NHS says.
The signs of the condition, which affects how the ovaries work, usually become clear in the early 20s.
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Oily skin or acne
Urinary incontinence is when a woman can’t hold their bladder and they may experience leaking of urine.
It’s much more than a physical problem, causing emotional distress and embarrassment.
Many women think it is just a part of ageing, but there are in fact ways to manage or treat it.
Your GP may ask you to keep a diary to get information about your condition, and there may carry out a range of further tests.
The following symptoms describe different types of urinary incontinence:
- When urine leaks when your bladder is under pressure, such as when you laugh, cough or lift something heavy (stress incontinence)
- When urine leaks as you feel a sudden, intense urge to pee, or soon afterwards (urge incontinence)
- When you're unable to fully empty your bladder, which causes frequent leaking (overflow incontinence)
- When your bladder cannot store any urine at all, which causes you to pass urine constantly or have frequent leaking
Pelvic organ prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the mnuscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs weaken or collapse.
It leaves one of more of the pelvic organs, such as the uterus, bladder or rectum, to drop or press into the vagine.
The treatable condition most commonly happens in women who have given birth, are older and are going through the menopause.
A GP will diagnose the condition with an internal pelvic examination. If there are problems with the bladder, a GP may refer further tests at hospital.
- Feeling or seeing a bulge or lump in or coming out of your vagina
- A feeling of heaviness or pressure in the pelvic and genitals
- A dragging discomfort inside your vagina
- Discomfort or numbness during sex and problems inserting tampons
- Problems peeing – such as leaking or needing to go to the toilet more often
Some women say that their symptoms are worse at certain times of the day, during physical activity, after standing for a long time or at the end of the day.
Uterine fibroids are small growths in the uterus that are not cancerous.
But the nodules, which can become bigger and and even cause weight gain, are painful and can lead to complications, such as blood loss.
The problem is diagnosed with an ultrasound or additional screening tests. There isn’t a uniform treatment option and some women can learn to live with it.
The symptoms of uterine fibroids, which affect just one in three women with the condition, are:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Backache or leg pains
Womb cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer affecting 9,300 women in the UK every year.
It is usually seen after the menopause, but women of any age can be diagnosed.
The NHS urges women to see their GP if they have the most common symptom of womb cancer – unusual bleeding from the vagina which may get heavier over time.
It could also be causing:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the back, legs or pelvis
- Loss of appetite
The sixth most common cancer in women, ovarian cancer is diagnosed 7,500 times a year.
Cancer of the ovary is most common post-menopause, although it can affect anyone with ovaries at any age.
The symptoms can often be mistaken for PMS (abdominal pain) and IBS (bloating).
It’s the reason most women are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread.
Go to your GP if you have:
- Increased abdominal size and persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
- Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
- Unexplained change in bowel habits
- Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous
- Needing to wee more regularly
Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages.
In most cases, abnormal vaginal bleeding is the first sign, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or after the menoapuse.
Abnormal bleeding does not mean you have cervical cancer, but you should see a GP as soon as possible to get it checked out.
The symptoms of cervical cancer – diagnosed 3,200 times a year – are:
- Unusual bleeding
- Pain and discomort during sex
- Unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Pain in your lower back or pelvis
- Peeing or pooing more than often
- Losing control of your bladder and bowels
- Swelling of the legs
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by getting a smear test when invited by the NHS.
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