One of the most common cancers in women is the cervical cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. This is caused by a virus called papillomavirus (HPV) and women of all ages can get it after having unsafe sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners, being overweight, use of oral contraceptives, smoking, genetics, poor immunity, first pregnancy at young age, and multiple pregnancies. In its early stages it does not show any symptoms, but they are more prominent after the disease spreads to the liver, bladder, intestines, or lungs. The chances of treating this type of cancer are if it is detected during early stages. Pap test and HPV vaccination can treat and prevent it. However, knowing the risks and warning signs can help you save yourselves from a lifetime of suffering. These are the symptoms which you must not ignore:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – this can be due to other medical conditions like hormonal imbalance, pelvic inflammatory or infection on pelvic organs, but as cancer spreads it creates subnormal capillaries which break easily and cause bleeding which may happen between menstrual periods, after menopause, after sexual intercourse, or after a pelvic exam.
- Pain during intercourse – this symptom indicates advanced cervical cancer meaning that it spread throughout the tissues and reproductive organs. Another symptom may be thick and foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Infection or STD may have similar symptoms as well which should not be ignored.
- Unusual vaginal discharge – clear and odorless vaginal discharge is normal, but if the smell becomes foul or appears irregularly, it can be a sign of cervical or endometrial cancer. When this type of cancer appears, the vaginal discharge can be watery, brown, pale, heavy, or mixed with blood.
- Heavier and longer menstrual periods – this problem can be caused by irritation of the cervix. Heavy bleeding is when you have to change tampons or sanitary napkins more often than once every 2 hours. However, heavy bleeding can appear due to hormonal imbalance, fibroids, polyps, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or thyroid, liver or kidney disease, or certain medications.
- Unexpected loss weight – when someone suffers from cancer, the immune system works very hard to fight it, the body produces small amount of proteins named cytokines that break down fat at a higher rate than normal leading to weight loss.
- Discomfort while urinating – one of the most obvious symptoms. Burning, stinging and tight sensation occurs when cancer spreads to nearby tissue and requires immediate attention. But this symptom can occur due to urinary tract infection, bladder problem, yeast infection, or sexually transmitted disease. Get checked for proper diagnosis.
- Pelvic pain – pain and cramps which last for longer period of time and occur more frequently can be a sign of cervical cancer. This symptom occurs in the advanced stage.
- Loss of bladder control – if you have a need for frequent bathroom breaks without any known reason, then you may need further evaluation. It indicates that the cancer has spread beyond a localized area affecting the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract. This is often connected to blood in urine.
- Leg pain – when the cancer spreads it obstructs the flow of the blood that can cause swelling in the leg and this creates sore, pain making it hard to carry out daily activities. Over time, this pain tends to be constant increasing intensity over time. There may also be a back pain. However, having pain in the legs does not mean that you have cancer, but it would be better that you visit a doctor.
- Constant fatigue – if you feel low and lack energy despite resting, then you should check yourselves at the doctor’s. When this type of cancer appears, the red blood cells are replaced by white to fight off the disease which causes anemia leading to fatigue, lack of energy and loss of appetite. Moreover, there is decreased oxygen supply to the body. Anemic response is a sign for warning that cancer is progressing with a rapid rate.
Additional tips: get HPV vaccination; quit smoking; take the right steps to prevent STDs; get screening every 3 years (women between 20-30 years), or 3-5 years for women 30-65 years.