Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Early stages of cervical cancers usually do not have any
For most women, the first sign of cervical cancer is
when changes are detected on a Pap
smear. The Pap smear is a routine test that looks for
precancerous and cancerous changes in the cervical cells.
Young women should receive Pap
smears on a regular basis. This is a very effective way to detect cervical
cancers before they become serious. Pap smear guidelines have changed in recent
to the National
Library of Medicine (NLM), the guidelines are:
- You should get your first
Pap smear at age 21
- The test should be
repeated every two years.
- Women over 30, or with
three consecutive negative-result smears, only need testing every three
- Women with new sexual
partners should get a smear every two years. This is also true if their
partners have new partners.
In older women, Pap smears may be combined with a human
papillomavirus (HPV) test. This is because most cervical cancers are caused by
HPV. If a woman does not have HPV, she
is unlikely to develop cervical cancer in the near future. However, HPV is very
common in young women. Most infections heal on their own within two years.
Therefore, doctors do not generally test young women for HPV unless they have
an abnormal Pap smear.
Genital Warts and Cervical Cancer
HPV can cause genital warts. However, there are many
types of HPV. The strains of HPV that
cause warts are not the same as the cancer-causing strains. Genital warts are not a symptom of cervical cancer. They
do not increase your risk of cervical cancer.
However, it is possible to be infected with more than
one strain of HPV. If you have genital warts, you may also have been infected
with a cancer-causing strain. Practicing safe sex can reduce your risk of both
types of HPV infection. But, condoms cannot entirely prevent HPV. The virus can
spread from skin to skin.
Being infected with a cancer-causing strain of HPV does
not mean you will get cancer. Most women with HPV will never have problems
caused by their infections.
Symptoms of Invasive Cervical Cancer
Women with cervical cancer tend not to have symptoms
until the cancer becomes invasive. An invasive cancer is one in which the cells
grow through the top layer of cervical tissue. They “invade” the deeper tissues
When women do have symptoms of
cervical cancer, they can include:
- irregular vaginal bleeding
- vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor
- watery vaginal discharge
- vaginal discharge tinged with blood
- pelvic or back pain
- pain during sex
- problems urinating
- problems defecating
- swelling of the legs
Irregular bleeding is the most common symptom of
cervical cancer. This bleeding may occur after sexual intercourse. It may also
occur between menstrual periods. It can even occur in a postmenopausal woman whose
menstrual periods have stopped. Vaginal bleeding in postmenopausal women indicates
a serious medical problem. It requires a visit to a doctor.
In younger women, minor bleeding
irregularities can be easy to ignore. Spotting between periods may mean nothing
at all. However, it can also be a sign of cervical cancer. It is important to
tell your doctor if you have vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex. You
should also contact your doctor if you suddenly start having:
- pain during sex
- difficulty urinating
- difficulty defecating
These are potential signs of
cervical cancer and other serious health problems. They require prompt medical