Contributed by – Dr. Snehal Singh
Cervical cancer is one of the common cancers that affect women across the globe. All women above the age of 45 are at a higher risk. The obvious next question that pops-up in anybody’s mind after hearing of cancer is whether it is treatable or not. Well, yes; it can be treated, depending on the stage and severity. Early detection and diagnosis can ensure timely treatment that can save many lives. Though the thought of cancer definitely sends shivers down the spine, knowing its warning signs can help fight it.
Cervical cancer affects the cervical region, which is the lower part of the uterus. While in many cases, cervical cancer does not show symptoms in early stages, there are ways to detect abnormal cells by doing screening tests. The Pap test is done to screen women for abnormal cervical cells, which indicate a possibility of cervical cancer. Besides this, there are some early signs of cervical cancer every woman should know, to seek timely medical advice.
6 Early Signs Of Cervical Cancer
Here are the 6 early signs of cervical cancer every woman should know:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding is one of the commonest warning signs of cervical cancer. This often includes bleeding in-between periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse or after pelvic examination. Post-menopausal women too need to watch out for this cervical cancer symptom. If vaginal bleeding occurs after menopause, it may indicate some problem, which you should not ignore.
Unusual Vaginal Discharge
Another common sign of cervical cancer is an unusual vaginal discharge. Any vaginal discharge, which is unusual and different in appearance, smell, consistency or colour should grab your attention. It may also be stained with blood and may appear before or after menstrual periods. As this sign is also noted in other medical problems, it is best to consult your doctor and go for lab tests, if advised.
Some women may experience pelvic pain, which is an important early sign of cervical cancer. Pelvic pain can be felt during or after intercourse, during urination or even after a physical examination. In cervical cancer, pelvic pain can appear suddenly, can be sharp or sometimes even dull aching. If you experience pelvic pain, which is different or if it is not related to your menstrual periods, better get it evaluated.
In some women, one of the early signs of cervical cancer can be heavy menses. If you note any sudden changes in your menstrual cycle or if menses occur too frequently, it is important to seek medical advice. Heavy bleeding during menses, wherein you need to change sanitary pads more often or menses that last too long, need attention. Abnormal heavy menses can indicate cervical cancer and must be evaluated at once.
Another warning sign of cervical cancer is pain or discomfort during urination. Painful urination with a feeling of tightness or pressure in the region can occur if cancer is growing in size and exerting pressure on the nearby organs or is spreading to other parts. Get it checked to rule out cervical cancer and find the right treatment.
Pain during intercourse is a common symptom in many gynaecological problems. However, it can indicate cervical cancer too. So, if you experience painful intercourse, do not ignore it.
The cervical cancer stages symptoms are based on the extent of the cancer growth. The early signs of cervical cancer may be noticed in initial stages when the cancer growth is small and has not gone beyond the uterus. However, in advanced stages, the growth may be large and can affect other parts as well. The advanced stages of cervical cancer may show symptoms like weight loss, decreased appetite, fatigue, back pain and swelling in the legs. This needs immediate assessment to prevent further problems. Appropriate investigations like blood tests and scans help to detect the spread of cervical cancer.
Is Cervical Cancer Treatable?
Cervical cancer is treatable, based on cervical cancer stage, location, size and extent of cancer spread. Depending on the severity, the most appropriate treatment for cervical cancer is planned. However, more emphasis is laid on reading early signs of cervical cancer and screening tests for early and timely detection.
Cervical cancer is thought to be caused due to a virus called, human papilloma virus (HPV). This is an infection causing virus, which can affect anyone who is sexually active. HPV infections are considered as a risk factor for cervical cancer. Hence, Pap smear tests are done to check abnormal cells in the cervix and to test HPV infection. Vaccines are also available for cervical cancer, which can be considered as per medical advice.
Like every disease, there are some warning signs of cervical cancer that you should not ignore. Watch out for them and protect yourself.