There are usually no early symptoms of cervical cancer. Most cases are identified during the pap smear or in the later stages of cancer. In addition to knowing the symptoms of cervical cancer, the most important thing is to make frequent visits to a gynecologist to perform the pap smear and begin early treatment if indicated.
However, sometimes cervical cancer can cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Vaginal bleeding with no apparent cause and outside menstruation;
- Altered vaginal discharge, with bad smell or brown coloring, for example;
- Constant abdominal or pelvic pain, which may worsen when using the toilet or during intercourse;
- Pressure feeling in the bottom of the belly;
- Urge to urinate more often, even at night;
- Rapid weight loss without dieting.
In more severe cases where the woman has advanced cervical cancer the symptoms may appear alongside other symptoms like fatigue, pain and swelling in the legs as well as involuntary losses of urine or feces.
These signs and symptoms can also be caused by other problems such as candidiasis or vaginal infection and may not be cancer related and so it is advised you see a gynecologist to make the correct diagnosis. See other signs and symptoms that may indicate other uterine problems.
What to do if you suspect you have cervical cancer
When more than one of these symptoms occur, it is advised to go to a gynecologist for diagnostic tests such as pap smears or colposcopy with biopsy of the uterine tissue as to evaluate if there are cancerous cells.
The pap smear should be performed every year for 3 consecutive years. If there is no change, the examination should only be performed every 3 years.
Who has a greater risk of having cancer
Uterine cancer is more common in women with:
- Sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea;
- HPV infection;
- Multiple sex partners.
In addition, women who use oral contraceptives for many years also have a higher risk of cancer. The longer the use, the greater the risk of cancer.
How is the treatment done
The treatment for uterine cancer is usually done with conization, brachytherapy, or radiotherapy, but if these approaches are not sufficient to cure the disease and if a woman no longer wants to have children, surgery can be done to remove the uterus, preventing the disease from getting worse.