Like with all cancers, prevention and early diagnosis can reduce the number of women affected by cervical cancer. Although HPV vaccination and regular PAP testing have been effective in recent years, specialists still expect at least 12000 women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the US alone.
That’s why it is very important to know what symptoms to look out for, and to consult a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.
#1. No symptoms at all
Because, with cervical cancers, symptoms only appear late in their development, the right thing to do is to go in for regular PAP smears and HPV tests. If there is a problem, the sooner it is discovered, the better the chances of a successful outcome. As a guideline, if you are over 21, but under 30, you should get a PAP and HPV test every three years, and if you are over 30, you should get the tests every five years.
#2. Heavier or longer lasting periods
If you are bleeding significantly more than usual during your period, or if you notice spotting between your periods (drops of blood on your underwear), or if your flow lasts noticeably longer than it used to, go in for testing.
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#3. Different vaginal discharge
Between periods, it is normal for the vaginal discharge to change a little (clear and off-white, lighter or heavier). But a significant change in the volume or scent of your vaginal discharge, especially if it doesn’t seem to be caused by any kind of vaginal infection, should raise a red flag.
#4. Painful sexual activity
If a cervical cancer mass is pressing on your pelvic nerves, sex can become painful. Depending on the size and positioning of the mass, pain can be present in the pelvic area even during normal daily activity. Painful sex may just be a lubrication problem, but it is better to check it out.
#5. Bleeding during or after sex
Unless you are a virgin, or the sex is extremely vigorous, you should not experience spotting or bleeding during or after sex (especially sexual intercourse). If it happens, it is worth going in for a check-up, just to be on the safe side.
#6. Difficulty peeing
Urinary tract infections are the main culprit for this, but, if the problem appears often, or if it does not go away after a course of antibiotics, you should tell your doctor about it. When a cervical cancer mass is present between the cervix and the bladder, it can feel like you need to pee all the time, or it hurts when you pee.
#7. Feeling fatigued all the time
You get enough sleep, you eat well and you’re not one for excesses, but you still feel tired and mentally fuzzy all the time. You could have a cancerous mass tapping into your bloodstream and causing anemia. See what your doctor has to say about it.
#8. Swollen legs
In the advanced stages of a cervical cancer, when it presses on the nerves or blood vessels in the pelvis, which supply the legs, a fluid build-up might appear in one or both legs. It is not a clear sign of cervical cancer, but it can be one of the symptoms.
#9. Unexplained constipation
In cases where a cervical cancer spreads towards the gastrointestinal tract (rectum or intestines), it can disturb the normal bowel movement. If you’re experiencing a long bout of constipation that you are not able to find the cause of, it is worth checking with a doctor.
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