Cervical cancer ranks as the 14th  most common type of cancer in women in the U.S. Prior to the mid-1950s, however, it was one of the most common, and it was much deadlier. Thanks to the development of the Pap smear test in the 1950’s, the rate of cervical cancer deaths among women has dropped by 70%. The survival rate for women diagnosed with localized cervical cancer is now 91% . These statistics show how critical early diagnosis is to the successful treatment of cervical cancer.
Since cervical cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms until it’s advanced, Pap tests are essential. In between tests, though, there are signs women should be aware of that, when present, should be reported to their doctors. Here are the top 10 warning signs of cervical cancer.
1. Prolonged Pelvic Pain
It’s normal to experience pelvic pain, such as cramps, for short periods of time during your normal menstrual cycle. However, if you experience prolonged pelvic pain, or consistent short bursts of sharp pain, talk to your doctor.
2. Leg Pain or Swelling
The cervix can begin to swell as a result of cervical cancer, and that swelling pushes against outlying blood vessels. The blood flow can then be blocked, which eventually causes the leg to swell.
3. Severe Side and Back Pain
4. Unexplained Loss of Weight or Appetite
Again, on its own, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite, could be the result of other factors, including illness or stress. However, when multiple symptoms are present, it should signal the need for a physical checkup.
5. Abnormal Discharge
Healthy discharge is colorless and odorless. So, consult your doctor if you experience discharge that increases in volume, changes in consistency or color, takes on a bad smell, or causes itching , especially if other listed symptoms are present.
6. Painful Intercourse
The medical term is sex dyspareunia, and it can be the result of conditions that are more common than cervical cancer. However, when combined with other symptoms, painful intercourse is a warning sign that should not be ignored.
7. Vaginal Bleeding
Vaginal bleeding that occurs outside of the normal menstrual cycle (usually after sex) is often the first tangible sign of cervical cancer. This also includes menopausal and postmenopausal women. If you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding, consult your primary care physician or OB-GYN right away.
8. Abnormal Menstrual Cycles
Like many other signs, there are a number of reasons that can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, including prescription medications, uncontrolled diabetes, and hyper or hypothyroidism. However, it can also be due to onset of cervical cancer, and should be checked out.
9. Painful Urination
If your bladder is aching or you otherwise feel pain while urinating, talk to your doctor immediately, particularly if you’re experiencing other symptoms. It could be something easily remedied, but it’s also a symptom of cervical cancer that may have spread to the bladder.
10. Changes in Urinary Habits
Cervical cancer can cause a marked increase in urine frequency. The urine can change in appearance as well, often to include blood (haematuria). A sign of something else? Possibly, but blood in the urine should always be checked immediately.
When taken alone, most of these signs can easily be explained away. However, if you experience multiple symptoms it’s important to talk to your doctor right away. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better the odds of survival.