Whether it is something you’ve read or something someone said, now you’re thinking you might have cervical cancer and you’re frantically looking for possible signs and early symptoms. To make things easier for you, we have compiled a list of signs of cervical cancer, either to put your mind at ease or to warn you if there really is a cause for concern.
Cervical Cancer Signs
No Early Symptoms
Unfortunately, in most cases, the early stage of cervical cancer does not produce any symptoms. Most symptoms appear only after the cancer has already spread to other nearby tissues and organs. Since early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment, regular cervical screening with a Pap test is recommended for all women (every 3-5 years, depending on age).
The following are the most common signs of cervical cancer:
- Pain During Intercourse: While the pain associated with cervical cancer is usually moderate at first, any unexpected pain is a possible sign of abnormalities of the cervix. It may be a sign of less serious conditions, but it should be discussed with your gynecologist regardless.
- Bleeding After Intercourse: In addition to this symptom, some women may experience bleeding during douching or after a pelvic exam. Bleeding can be caused by other conditions as well; for example, by an infection. However, it is a very serious symptom that should be reported immediately before the potential cancer develops to a more advanced stage, lowering your chances for successful treatment.
- Vaginal Bleeding or Spotting Between /After Periods: Any abnormal vaginal bleeding is a possible sign of cervical cancer. Post-menopausal bleeding can also be added to this list.
- Pelvic Pain: Whether it is a sharp pain or a dull ache, any pain unrelated to your menstrual cycle is a good reason to schedule an appointment with your physician. New pain and new sensations in the pelvic area are among the most common first signs of cancer.
- Vaginal Mass: This is a very rare symptom. Vaginal growths and cysts are usually benign and asymptomatic. At any rate, a physical exam is required to determine what kind of mass it is.
- Vaginal Discharge: Some patients with cervical cancer report a pink, watery or foul-smelling discharge, while others experience a discharge that is heavy, pale, brownish or blood-tinged. Apart from cervical cancer, other possible causes include yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and menopause symptoms.
- Longer and Heavier Periods
- Frequent Urination and Changes to Bowel Movements: These symptoms may be associated with cervical cancer, especially if they are persistent.
Symptoms of Advanced Cervical Cancer
When left unchecked, cervical cancer can lead to the development of secondary malignant growths (metastases) in other parts of the body, but primarily within the pelvis area and the lymph nodes. The symptoms of this stage of cervical cancer include:
- Heavy Vaginal Bleeding
- Painful Urination – sign that the cancer has spread to the bladder
- Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
- Pain in Pelvis, Back and Legs
- Swollen Legs
- Leakage of Urine or Feces from Vagina – rare, very advanced
- Blood in the Urine
- Bone Fractures
The Next Step
The first early sign of cervical cancer is an abnormal Pap test. These abnormal cells are sometimes called “precancer” by medical professionals. Precancerous conditions of the cervix are by and large asymptomatic. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may already be fairly advanced. This is why regular Pap tests are so important.
After diagnosis with a Pap smear, additional diagnostic procedures (MRI, CT scan, X-ray of the chest, PET scan) can be used to determine the stage of cervical cancer. After that, you will be offered one of the three treatment options (surgical procedure, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy) based on how advanced the disease is. But always remember: cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, so don’t skip on your gyno appointments!