How getting to know your vulva can save your life with Lady Garden Foundation.
We’re serious advocates of vulva pride here at Smile Makers. Breaking down shame and stigma is all part of discovering yourself, and your pleasure potential. But, getting acquainted with our vulvas can also save our lives.
‘Knowing what your vulva feels like won’t just get you off, it will also help you spot the signs of cancer. Taking five minutes to feel for any lumps, sores, raised and thickening skin, tenderness or moles changing in shape, is just one of the ways to check in on your gynae health. And if there’s nothing down there you need to flag to your doctor, well you just crack on showing your vulva and vagina some loving.’ @LadyGardenFoundation
Lady Garden Foundation is a gynaecological health charity raising awareness of the five gynae cancers, and funding to help save those affected by the diseases. We’ve teamed up with them to understand what we can look out for when getting to know our vulvas!
Loving our vulva to save our lives? We 👏 Are 👏 Here 👏 For 👏 It. All it takes is spotting when something’s up early, so you can talk to your doctor sooner. Most vulva owners with symptoms like these do not have cancer. But, this awareness is the first and most important step - early diagnosis saves lives. It’s always worth checking.
Types of gynae cancer.
Did you know there are five different kinds of gynaecological cancer? Because, if we’re being honest - the Lady Garden Foundation taught us a lot! How many can you list before scrolling down?
Vulva cancer is a rare kind commonly diagnosed in those aged 65 or over. Symptoms include:
- Open sore on the skin of the vulva.
- Burning pain when passing urine.
- A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour.
- Lump or swelling in the vulva.
- A lasting itch, pain or soreness on the skin.
Vaginal cancer is also very rare, but it’s still good to be aware of the symptoms:
- Blood-stained discharge.
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse and pain.
- Problems with passing urine.
- Pain in the rectum.
- Vaginal itch that won't go away.
The most common cancer in women under 35 years old. Cervical screening such as smear and pap tests are essential in spotting abnormalities, which can be treated to prevent the cervical changes developing into cancer. Many vulva owners miss their screening appointments due to vulva shame, so it’s SO important that we break that shame down. Symptoms include:
- Unusual / severe bleeding.
- Discomfort from sex.
- Pain in your lower back or pelvic area.
- Unpleasant vaginal discharge.
- Urinary or bowel incontinence.
More than 8 out of 10 ovarian cancers occur in people over the age of 50. In the UK, it’s the 5th most common cancer in women, after breast, lung, bowel and womb cancer. Symptoms to be aware of are:
- Feeling constantly bloated.
- Discomfort in your tummy, pelvic area or back.
- Feeling full quickly when eating.
- Unintentional weight loss.
Around five in every 100 cancer diagnoses in women are womb cancers. The most common type is endometrial, meaning it starts in the endometrium - the lining of the womb. Symptoms include:
- Abnormal bleeding.
- Watery discharge.
- Pain in back, legs or pelvis.
- Loss of appetite and/or sickness.
Ways to get to know your vulva (and vagina).
- Look at your vulva. Hold a hand mirror between your legs to get familiar with what your vulva looks like. Remember, every vulva is unique but understanding what normal looks like for you and vulva will make it easier to spot when there’s something out of the ordinary going on.
- Get hands on with your vulva. Experience the different textures of every part of your vulva. Your vulva is all your external genitalia, so feel your mons pubis, labia, clitoris glans and vaginal opening. There’s so much awareness around copping a feel of breasts; think of this in the same way.
- Masturbate. So, there’s feeling yourself and then there’s loving yourself. Self-love sessions should already be high on your priority list, but using a vibrator or hands for sexual pleasure regularly allows us to learn about our vulval and vaginal sensations. We become familiar with what feels good, and can flag when something feels not-so good!
- Acknowledge your intimate fluids. There is nothing icky about discharge or mucus. In fact, knowing what’s going on in our pants is a key way to establish when something unusual is occurring. If you menstruate, the fluid’s structure can change throughout your cycle due to hormones, which is just as interesting to notice!
Learn, check and now donate...
Head to Lady Garden Foundation to learn more about gynae cancer and to help raise awareness or donations.
If you’re curious to do read more Vulva Talks, check out our pleasure-positive sex education platform that teaches you to discover yourself!
References: All info and stats from Lady Garden Foundation.