The symptoms of cervical cancer depend largely upon which stage of progression the cancer has reached. In the early stages of cervical cancer, for instance, very few symptoms can be observed and many individuals experience no symptoms whatsoever. This is one of the reasons that it’s vital to get regularly screened for cervical cancer and other types of health issues because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly with something as potent as cancer of the cervix.
The reason there are typically no early symptoms of cervical cancer is due to the way in which this disease grows. It’s a disease that is rather slow to develop and the location does not lend itself to particular sensitivity or visibility. Even though the cells of the cervix are undergoing changes (technically known as dysplasia), the direct effects may not be obvious. Some malignancies that develop close to a strong blood supply, for instance, may chip off and produce a bloody appearance. In the early stages of cervical cancer this does not occur.
As the disease progresses, there may be several symptoms that appear which are discussed below. It’s important to note, however, that even in later stages of cervical cancer, many women are completely asymptomatic and only prevention, regularly screenings and pap smears will catch it early enough to be treated with maximum efficacy.
Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer in women who have had the disease for a while are:
• Vaginal Bleeding – Most women will experience somewhat unusual and seemingly random vaginal bleeding following various routine occurrences. For instance, vaginal bleeding can be observed after having sex, in between periods of menstruation and after a woman reaches menopause.
• Vaginal Discharge – Most women are quite in tune with their bodies and notice minute changes in odor, color and appearance of their vaginal secretions even if they are only paying attention passively. A bloody, watery vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor and a somewhat heavy consistency may be an indication of the disruption of a woman’s normal functioning.
• Pain During Sex – This is another potential indicator that a woman may have cancer of the cervix. You might also notice pelvic pain where there was none before.
Some of the advanced symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
• Back Pain – The various parts of the body are intimately connected and it’s possible that problems in the cervix can manifest as back pain.
• Bone Fractures – This is typically a sign of advanced cervical cancer and indicates a general weakness of the body.
• Swollen lymph nodes – The lymph nodes are stations of immunity that swell up any time the body is facing some sort of microscopic threat. Swollen lymph nodes are a quintessential symptom of many types of disease, not just cancer, but they’re excellent indicators of health problems that should be taken seriously.
• Fatigue – This is another advanced symptom and occurs when the body is so occupied with trying to fight off the threat and the cancer cells drain so many resources from the body, that the patient simply lacks their usual quantities of energy.
• Loss of appetite – This is a pretty serious symptom and points to a severe disruption of homeostasis within the body.
• Weight loss – This is also a rather generic symptom and should be considered in combination with other symptoms that may occur.
• Urine and/or feces coming from the vagina – This is a very severe symptom that should prompt you to seek immediate medical attention. Feces in the vagina are very dangerous for reasons of infection and their presence indicates a severe problem.
• Leg pain/swollen leg – This may seem like a disconnected symptom but like the others, should be thought of as only potentially indicative unless it is seen in conjunction with several others.
If you observe any of these indicators, be calm. Here’s why: all of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer have to be taken into account in the context of everything else. For instance, many women experience pain during sex because their partner is too rough or too large. Additionally, many women may have an unusual vaginal discharge that can be due to a yeast infection or an STD or any number of other non-cancer factors!
If, on the other hand, you experience several of these symptoms and the onset is rather sudden and unexpected, then it’s certainly a good idea to go see you physician and have the appropriate tests conducted as soon as possible.
There is also a connection between HPV and cervical cancer that women should be aware of because it’s been shown that up to 70% of all cervical cancer can be attributed to 2 specific types of HPV (16 and 18). The reason for this is that HPV causes abnormal cell changes and growth in the cervix. For this reason women who carry HPV should be especially vigilant for any symptoms and signs of cervical cancer.
It’s important for women to begin seeing a gynecologist in their teenage years, which is the default recommendation by the American Congress Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This will help young women understand how to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to HPV infection (a major player in cervical cancer cases) and also make them aware of the symptoms associated with this disease.
Symptoms of cervical cancer after menopause are typically the same as for pre-menopausal women but would most noticeably include vaginal bleeding where it had largely stopped.
Every woman should certainly be on the lookout for the symptoms of cervical cancer and should be getting screened with pap smears and other diagnostic tools regularly to catch any abnormalities before the become a serious problem.