Two thirds of women in the UK don’t know their endometrium from their eyelids

16 October 2018 . United Kingdom

Two thirds (67%) of British women do not know what an endometrium is, despite endometrial cancer being the fourth most common women’s cancer in the UK. 

  • Over 17.6 million women don’t know what the endometrium is, despite endometrial cancer being the fourth most common cancer in women
  • Some people thought it was a part of the intestines, the inside of the eye or even a gland
  • Bupa and The Eve Appeal provide guidance on how to improve your own awareness of endometrial cancer symptoms
Woman looking out window

New research by healthcare provider Bupa UK reveals that many women mistake the endometrium for another body part – including the intestines, glands or part of the eye. Some even mistake it for a 'geometric shape' or an endoscope – the camera used for internal operations.

More than 9,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with endometrial cancer every year, equating to 25 new cases each day. Reinforcing the low level of awareness, only 39% questioned knew that endometrial cancer affects the womb.

Early diagnosis and treatment of endometrial cancer can improve outcomes, with research showing more than nine in 10 women surviving for five years or more if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However, the survival rate falls to three in 20 women when diagnosed at the latest stage.

Bupa’s findings suggest that many women are at risk of missing the signs of endometrial cancer at the earliest stage. A third of women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle, four in 10 (41%) wouldn’t go to a GP with unusual discharge and a similar number (43%) wouldn’t seek medical help with pelvic pain. Worryingly, one in five women say that they would not visit their doctor if they experienced all three of these symptoms.

Bupa recently introduced its Cancer Direct Access service, the UK’s most comprehensive self-referral cancer service, which aims to improve early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, including endometrial cancer.

Dr. Petra Simic, Clinical Director at Bupa UK, said, “We are now more aware of cancer but some cancers and their symptoms are more well-known than others. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness could mean women don’t always recognise dangerous symptoms of endometrial cancer and risk missing opportunities for early diagnosis.

“We’re highlighting the symptoms of endometrial cancer and the importance of seeking medical advice as that can help to improve outcomes for women diagnosed with the disease.”

Athena Lamnisos, Chief Executive, The Eve Appeal, said: “Most people have never heard of endometrial or womb cancer, let alone know that it’s the fourth most common cancer in women and diagnosis is on the rise. Research undertaken by The Eve Appeal continually shows that there is woefully low awareness of both the gynaecological cancers and also of the female reproductive organs that these cancers affect. Early diagnosis means better treatment and prognosis with this cancer – that’s why women need a better body knowledge so that they spot changes and talk to their doctors with confidence about their bodies.”

Dr. Petra Simic, Clinical Director at Bupa UK outlines the key symptoms of endometrial cancer to look out for

For premenopausal women:

  • Erratic periods or bleeding between periods*
  • Significantly heavier periods, or continuous bleeding

For women who have gone through the menopause:

  • Any vaginal bleeding
  • New or heavier vaginal discharge

The top five things women mistake the endometrium for:

  1. Part of the intestines
  2. Operation where a camera sees inside your body
  3. The inside of the eye
  4. A collection of hormone glands
  5. A geometric shape

About the research

Opinium Research surveyed 2,014 UK adults aged 18+ online between 16 and 20 March 2018 on behalf of Bupa. Results are weighted to be nationally representative.

  1. When asked “Do you know what the endometrium is?” 686 (67%) of women said no. 686/2014 (overall samples size) x 51,767,000 UK adult population = 17,640,708 adult women in the UK.
  2. Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women -
  3. More than 9,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with endometrial cancer every year -
  4. Research shows more than nine in 10 women surviving for five years or more if diagnosed at the earliest stage

Notes to editor

*Please note though that most people with abnormal bleeding will not have a gynaecological cancer.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for the major part of our business with 15.7m customers and contributes over 70% of revenue. We operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets, with 15m customers. We care for around 23,000 residents in our UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain aged care businesses.

We directly employ around 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Turkey, the US, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

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