What Are the Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of reproductive cancer. This condition occurs whenever healthy cells mutate and begin growing abnormally, and it can be caused by past infections, environmental factors, or even genetics. Since so many people are at risk for this cervical cancer, getting regular screenings is important. Identifying the condition as early as possible makes it much easier to treat.
Common Cervical Cancer Signs
Cervical cancer is a very complex health issue. Therefore it can cause a broad range of symptoms. Some people can experience every warning sign at once, while others might only notice one or two signs. Here are the potential problems that you should be on the lookout for.
Any unusual bleeding from the genitals can indicate cervical cancer. This includes seeing blood between menstrual cycles or seeing blood when you are postmenopausal. The blood can be brownish, reddish, or pinkish. Some women experience large volumes of blood, while others have small spots. Often, you will see blood after sexual intercourse or a pelvic examination.
Cancer of the cervix can cause all sorts of pain ranging from shooting and stabbing sensations to chronic, dull throbs of pain. This discomfort often occurs during intercourse, and physical movement can worsen it. Pain is most common in the pelvic region, but some people may experience it in their stomach or lower back. Some people also experience throbbing or burning pain during urination.
Cervical cancer symptoms can affect vaginal discharge. Many people report noticing that their discharge smells very strong or smells unpleasant. Discharge may also be unusually heavy and very watery. It can be bloody or otherwise discolored. Unlike regular vaginal discharge, this abnormal discharge often remains high throughout the entire menstrual cycle.
General Cancer Symptoms
If the condition goes untreated, abnormal cells can spread throughout the body. This can cause many other health issues in the bladder, kidneys, and other organs near the cervix. It can also make it harder for other systems in the body to function correctly. Some general signs that may indicate a problem include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Back pain
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to control urination
- Blood in urine
How Soon Do Cervical Cancer Symptoms Show Up?
During the earliest stages, almost no symptoms are present. The only early sign for most people is an abnormal Pap test result. Usually, cervical cancer signs only appear once the abnormal cells have started forming cancerous masses. During this stage, the traditional warning signs are more frequent. For many people, vaginal bleeding following sex is the first noticeable symptom.
Cervical cancer symptoms change as the condition progresses. Here are some common signs associated with the different stages of the condition.
- Stage 1: The tumor is only on the cervix and may not cause other symptoms.
- Stage 2: The cancerous cells have spread to the vagina, uterus, and nearby tissues. Discomfort and spotting are common.
- Stage 3: It has spread to most of the vaginal canal or into the pelvic wall. This tends to cause constipation, bloody urine, back pain, and painful sex.
- Stage 4: The cancerous cells are in other organs or throughout the body. People may experience fatigue, dizziness, and other full-body symptoms.
What to Do If You Notice These Warning Signs
If you experience any of these signs, it is essential to seek medical care as soon as possible. When a doctor suspects this condition, they can perform a biopsy test to collect cervical cells and examine them for cancerous signs.
If your biopsy reveals abnormal cells, your doctor will perform imaging tests to help them look closely at your body and determine how far the cancerous cells have spread. Depending on how far along your condition is, you might need surgery to remove the cancerous areas and chemotherapy or radiation to destroy abnormal cells.
At Nashville Oncology Associates, we’re committed to providing a wide range of oncology care. Our team is here to assist physicians and patients dealing with cervical cancer. In addition to reproductive care, our practices also help with various other oncological conditions. Contact us today to learn more.