According to the American Cancer Society, almost 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2017, with over 4,200 women have it as their cause of death. This is a sad number, especially cervical cancer is one of the most types of cancer that can be prevented amongst women. The good news, though, the increase of HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccination and Pap test have lowered down the death rate of cervical cancer by 50 percent over the past 40 years. So it is important that you pay attention to the warning signs of cervical cancer to have early diagnosis and proper treatment to be provided.
Pay Attention to These Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer affects the cervix which is the lower part of your uterus. There is very little visual and physical symptoms during the earliest stage of cervical cancer but many symptoms are evident after the disease has spread to the liver, bladder, lungs or intestines. Some of the most typical symptoms that you should not dismiss are:
1. Unusual Vaginal Bleeding
One indicator of cervical cancer is an untimely bout of vaginal bleeding that happens regularly. It can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, hormonal imbalance, and infection of the pelvic organs or other medical conditions.
New, abnormal capillaries are formed as cancer spreads to its surrounding tissues, which cause the bleeding. This bleeding can occur after menopause, after sexual intercourse, in between periods, and even after a pelvic exam.
2. Abnormal Discharge in the Vagina
If you see a clear, odorless discharge in your vagina, then no need to panic as that is normal. What is normal, on the other hand, if the discharge has an irregular appearance and has a foul smell, this unusual vaginal discharge can be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer. Report to your doctor right away if your discharge is pale, heavy, brown, watery or mixed with blood.
3. Painful Intercourse
Another warning signs of cervical cancer that you should pay attention to is pain during sexual intercourse. This symptom is an indication that the cancer is already in an advanced stage and has spread throughout reproductive organs and tissues. You may also experience other symptoms such as foul-smelling and thick vaginal discharge apart from the pain.
4. Pelvic Pain
Most of the women has experienced pelvic pain. Cramps and aches have been a constant companion during menstruation period. If the pain though happens more frequently and lasts for a longer period of time, it could be a sign of cervical cancer.
Pelvic pain usually occurs at the very advanced stage of the disease. The pain does not only happen at unusual times but it may also suddenly start at any time during the month.
5. Painful Urination
One of the most prevalent and obvious symptoms of cervical cancer is the pain or discomfort when urinating. Such discomforts include stinging, burning or a tight sensation when you urinate. This symptom is an indication that the cancer has already spread to its surrounding tissues.
Urinary discomforts though can also be caused by other conditions such as bladder problem, urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease.
6. Irregular Menstruation
Irritation of the cervix can happen when the cervical cancer has spread. This can cause menstrual periods that are longer and heavier than normal, which is one of warning signs of cervical cancer. It might be alarming when you have to change your tampons or sanitary napkins more often than once in every 2 hours.
Consult with your doctor if there are any changes in the consistency of your menstrual periods.
7. Inability to Control Bladder
Many pregnant women or people who drink more liquid find the need for frequent bathroom breaks. If you feel you need to go to the bathroom more often without any known reason though, you may need to talk to your doctor.
Loss of bladder control is an indication that the cancer has spread beyond the localized area and has affected other parts of urinary tract including the bladder. Aside from loss of bladder control, people diagnosed with cervical cancer have also a presence of blood in their urine.
8. Sudden Weight Loss
Though unexplained weight loss can be a result of other factors, you should not dismiss this symptom if it is paired with other symptoms mentioned above.
Your immune system works harder when cancer invades your body. As a result, your body produces cytokines, small proteins that break down fats at a much higher rate than normal. This can result to sudden weight loss.
9. Unexplained Fatigue
Most of us get tired after a very busy day, however, we will be refreshed and our energy will be replenished after a little rest. However, if you still feel sluggish and exhausted constantly, despite resting, it could be another warning signs of cervical cancer.
Our body produces more white blood cells when you are suffering from cancer. This leads to anemia which causes lack of energy, fatigue and loss of appetite.
10. Regular Leg Pain
Women that have been diagnosed with cervical cancer often experience pain and swelling in their legs. Blood flow is obstructed when the cancer spreads, causing inflammation and swelling in the legs. It’s hard to carry out your day-to-day activities since legs that are swollen, create a painful and sore sensation.
Can You Prevent Cervical Cancer and How?
Cervical cancer can definitely be prevented. Follow these prevention measures to lower your risk of getting this deadly disease:
- Pap Test – Also known as Pap smears, this test aims to look for precancerous symptoms such as abnormal cells or changes in the cervix cells.
- HPV (Human papillomavirus) Vaccine – since human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer, getting the HPV vaccine is the best prevention.
- Others – in addition to HPV vaccine and early screenings, lower your risk of cervical cancer by practicing safe sex, especially if you have more than one partner. Stop smoking since carcinogens can lead to early progression not just of cervical cancer but with other types of cancer too. Lastly, avoid sexually transmitted infections (STI).