Most women do not have any signs or symptoms of a pre-cancer or early-stage cervical cancer.
Symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has spread to other tissues and organs. Also, symptoms may also be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.
Any of the following could be signs or symptoms of cervical dysplasia or cancer:
Irregular vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of cervical cancer.The bleeding may occur between menstrual periods or after sex. Sometimes, it shows as slight blood-streaked vaginal discharge, which often gets dismissed as regular spotting. Also, menstrual bleeding may be heavier and last longer.
Vaginal bleeding can also occur in postmenopausal women who no longer have menstrual periods. This is a major warning sign of cervical cancer or other problems and warrants a trip to the physician.
Along with bleeding, other types of vaginal discharge are common early symptoms of cervical cancer. It is often continuous because of the nature of the infection. The discharge may have the following characteristics:
- tinged with blood
While bleeding and discharge may be early signs of cervical cancer, more intense symptoms will arise in later stages. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer can include:
- backor pelvic pain
- difficulty urinatingor defecating due to obstruction
- swelling of one or both legs
- weight loss
Who Is at Risk?
Knowing the warning signs as well as your risks increases your chances of catching cervical cancer (or HPV) before it progresses. Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- not getting vaccinated for HPV
- high number of sexual partners
- first sexual intercourse at a young age
- sex with a man whose partner had cervical cancer
- compromised immune system
- mother’s use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
These signs and symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer. For example, an infection can cause pain or bleeding. Still, if you have any of these problems, you should see your health care professional right away − even if you have been getting regular Pap tests. If it is an infection, it will need to be treated. If it’s cancer, ignoring symptoms might allow it to progress to a more advanced stage and lower your chance for effective treatment.
Even better, don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Be screened regularly.