Cervical cancer ranks among the top five leading cancers found in women and is a major cause of death among women due to cancer.
Cervical cancer usually does not have any symptoms in the early stages or the pre-cancer stage. The signs and symptoms appear when the cancer has advanced and become invasive, affecting the tissues surrounding the cervix.
The signs and symptoms at the advanced stage include:
- Unusual bleeding
Abnormal bleeding from the vaginal region is the primary symptom that is linked to cancer of the cervix. This bleeding occurs either between periods or after intercourse. Unusual bleeding post menopause or periods with heavier than usual bleeding are also warning signs of cervical cancer.
- Pain in the pelvic region
Pain in the pelvis is another big sign for cervical cancer. This pain could occur throughout the region or at a specific location; it could be a dull pain or a sharp ache, but something that is not usual for the body. Pain experienced during urination or while having sex can also be a sign.
- Unusual discharge
A discharge which smells foul and is cloudy in appearance is another warning sign. Sometimes, the discharge could be watery too. However, the discharge could be due to other reasons as well and thus a doctor must be consulted about it.
- Abnormal bowel movements
Changes in the quality of your bowel movements or constantly having to urinate or feeling like urinating are often other likely symptoms, provided these signs are persistent and last for more than a week.
Feeling sluggish or fatigued most of the time is another symptom, along with the signs listed above.
These are the signs and symptoms, but it is also better to know the risk factors that could increase the chances of developing cervical cancer.
The risk factors that aggravate the chances of cervical cancer include:
- HPV or human papillomavirus infection
Infection with HPV, probably by having sex with an infected individual, increases the risk of cervical cancer greatly.
Those suffering from genital herpes are at greater risk.
- Deficiency of the immune system
A compromised immune system ups the chances of developing cervical cancer.
Women who smoke are at a two times greater risk compared to nonsmokers.
Those in their late teens to mid-30s are more at risk as well as women aged 40 years and above.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure
Mothers of women who have been exposed to the DES drug during their pregnancy are now putting their daughter at risk for developing the cancer.
Additionally, those who belong to a socioeconomic class that cannot afford regular Pap smears are at risk along with those using oral contraceptives (as per studies).
Ways to prevent cervical cancer
Cervical cancer can be prevented by regular Pap smears along with considering the following points:
- Avoiding sexual intercourse till reaching into the late teens or older.
- Avoiding intercourse with multiple partners or those who have multiple partners or those who have genital warts and infections.
- Using a condom during intercourse.
- Avoiding or quitting smoking.
- Getting HPV vaccination.
- Getting screened regularly.
This helps women recognize the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, become aware of the risks, and take suitable preventive measures at the right time.