Cervical cancer affects thousands of women per year. Unfortunately, the early signs of the disease can be so subtle that many women ignore them until it’s in the later stages. While treatment is still possible at advanced stages, it can be more invasive and complicated.
That’s why it’s so important to be able to recognize the early signs and act quickly.
Possible Early Signs of Cervical Cancer
The early signs of cervical cancer can often be attributed to other disorders, stress, or being overworked.
However, if you experience any of these signs, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – Women who experience abnormal bleeding between periods, after having sex, after going through menopause, or after undergoing a routine pelvic exam should be concerned about cervical cancer.
- Unexplained pelvic pain – While the menstrual cycle may cause cramping, the pelvic pain from cervical cancer usually has no obvious cause.
- An unexplained discharge – If you’re seeing a discharge that is watery and has a foul smell, this is a sure sign that something is wrong. Even if cervical cancer is not the cause, any strange discharge deserves to be investigated.
- Chronic fatigue – It’s true that being tired all the time can be caused by different illnesses and most physicians don’t readily associate this with cervical cancer. However, if you’re constantly exhausted, it’s worth it to find out why.
- Pain with sexual intercourse – It’s important to pay attention to this sign at its earliest onset. By the time it gets bad enough to significantly affect your sex life, the disease would have likely started to spread.
- Bowel movement changes – There’s no need to get concerned if these changes last for less than a week but if they persist, give your doctor a call.
- Painful urination – If you have a burning or stinging feeling while urinating, it’s more likely to be a sign of cervical cancer than anything else.
- Changes in the menses – When menstrual periods become heavier or longer, it’s possible that cervical cancer is the cause. Check this one out as soon as possible.
- Strange weight loss – Unless you’re making an effort to lose weight, shedding pounds should always be investigated by a doctor.
How Cervical Cancer is Diagnosed
The first stage in diagnosing cervical cancer is a pap smear. In this procedure cells from the cervix are assessed under a microscope for possible abnormalities.
In some cases, the doctor may order an HPV DMA test to check for the types of HPV that are usually associated with cervical cancer.
If the initial tests show abnormalities, the next step is typically a colposcopy and biopsy.