Following the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, breast cancer, cervical cancer comes second on the list. It develops in the cells of the cervix, the neck of the uterus that connects the vagina to the uterus. The primary cause of cervical cancer is papillomavirus (HPV), which affects all women regardless of age and is normally contracted via unsafe sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners, excessive weight, use of oral contraceptives, smoking, genetics, poor immunity, first pregnancy at young age, as well as multiple pregnancies. Unfortunately, this cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages, but these become more persistent once the disease spreads to the liver, bladder, intestines, or lungs. If it’s caught in the early stages, this cancer is successfully treatable. Plus, regular Pap smear test as well as HPV vaccination can efficiently inhibit its onset. Also, it’s a great advantage to learn about the risks and warning signs of this fatal disease.
The symptoms you must never close your eyes to include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – hormonal imbalance, as well as pelvic inflammation or infection can also lead to this condition. However, when it comes to cervical cancer, the division of cancer cells leads to abnormal capillaries that burst easily and cause bleeding which can occur between periods, after menopause, after sexual intercourse, or following a pelvic exam.
- Pain during intercourse – this is a warning sign that points toward advanced cervical cancer, which has affected the tissues and reproductive organs. Thick and foul-smelling vaginal discharge is also an accompanying sign. Although infection or STD can produce similar symptoms, this is something that must not be ignored.
- Unusual vaginal discharge – foul or irregular vaginal discharge can be a sign of cervical or endometrial cancer. As opposed to clear and odourless vaginal discharge, which is normal, when the vaginal discharge becomes watery, brown, pale, heavy, or mixed with blood, it indicates a very serious condition.
- Heavier and longer menstrual periods – every period that requires changing tampons or sanitary napkins more often than every 2-3 hours can be defined as heavy bleeding. This can be caused by irritation of the cervix or other factors including hormonal imbalance, fibroids, polyps, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or thyroid, liver or kidney disease, or certain medications.
- Unexpected loss weight – this is an accompanying sign of any cancer as the immune system works very hard to fight it, the body produces small amount of proteins called cytokines that break down fat faster than normal, thus inducing weight loss.
- Discomfort while urinating –burning, stinging and tight sensation while urinating is one of the most obvious symptoms of cervical cancer which appears in the later stages when cancer spreads to nearby tissues, including the bladder. However, this can also be the result of urinary tract infection, bladder dysfunction, yeast infection, or sexually transmitted disease. Whatever the cause, immediate examination is a must.
- Pelvic pain – frequent pain and cramps in the pelvic area that last longer can also indicate cervical cancer. This symptom occurs in the advanced stage.
- Loss of bladder control – frequent urination and inconsistency without an apparent cause also require immediate medical attention. This can be a sign of advanced cancer that has spread to the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract. Blood in the urine is a sign too.
- Leg pain – leg pain and swelling are signs of cancer development. Although they start as mild discomforts, they gradually become more intense and are often accompanied by back pain. This is not a certain indication of cancer, but it surely requires medical attention.
- Constant fatigue – if you are suffering from constant lack of energy in spite of having proper rest, consult your health care provider. The thing is that this type of cancer replaces the red with white blood cells in order to fight off the disease, thus causing anaemia, which in turn leads to fatigue, lack of energy and loss of appetite. In addition, the oxygen supply to the body is reduced. Anaemia indicates that cancer is spreading rapidly.
There are several things you can do to further lower your risk of developing cervical cancer, and these include:
– getting an HPV shot,
– quitting smoking,
– protecting yourself against STDs;
– getting regular pelvic exams, including Pap smear.