Know how to spot the signs of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the name given to cancer that occurs in the cervix. Its signs and symptoms may not start to show for up to a number of years, as this type of cancer has a very slow growing process. 

Finding abnormal cells in your cervix does not always mean that you have cancer, but can be a strong indicator. These can normally be identified through a routine pap smear test.

The average age of people diagnosed with cervical cancer is the mid-50s, while most will be diagnosed with cervical precancerous changes in their 20s or 30s.

These age differences really highlight the slow pace at which most cervical cancers will progress. There’s plenty of time to get treatment and halt its progression if you get tested.

The Essential Guide to Cervical Cancer by life coach Mary Lunnen, who is a cervical cancer survivor, is now available to buy from Need2Know Books.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cancer might include any of the following:❖      Light bleeding or blood spots following or between menstruation cycles;

❖      Finding that pelvic examinations, intercourse and/or douching result in bleeding;

❖      Sexual intercourse becomes painful;

❖      Pain in the back and/or pelvis that is persistent and unexplained;

❖      Bleeding after menopause;

❖      Increased vaginal discharge;

❖      Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual.

If you experience any type of abnormal vaginal bleeding, please consult your GP.
 

Advanced Cervical Cancer

Most obvious symptoms of cervical cancer will not be noticeable until the condition reaches an advanced stage, having spread from the cervix into nearby organs and tissues. At this stage, the range of symptoms can include:

❖      Discomfort in the pelvis and lower back;

❖      Becoming constipated;

❖      Urinary and/or bowel incontinence (losing control of when you go to the bathroom);

❖      One or both legs becoming swollen;

❖      Severe vaginal bleeding;

❖      Blood in your pee;

❖      Peeing or pooing more often than normal;

❖      Severe pain in your side or back caused by your kidneys.
 

Potential Causes of Cervical Cancer

❖      Having unprotected sex with multiple partners;

❖      Smoking tobacco;

❖      Living with High-Risk HPV;

❖      Already infected HPV partner;

❖      Several pregnancies.

Risk of cervical cancer is higher in AFAB people who were exposed to the medicine DES (diethylstilbestrol) in the womb. Abnormal cells in the vagina and cervix have been linked to DES-exposure.

This is a type of estrogen which was originally believed to prevent miscarriages.

Since the 1970s, this medication has been off the market in the US, with the UK halting DES prescriptions around 1975.

If you were born between the 1950s and 1970s, it’s a good idea to find out if you were exposed to the drug by asking your mother, finding her medical records or asking your GP for a referral for a full DES examination.
 

Cervical Cancer and HPV

❖      Your risk of contracting HPV is increased considerably by having unprotected sex (i.e. having sex without a physical barrier, like a condom).

❖      Research suggests that around 80-90% of cervical cancer cases occur as a result of a HPV infection.
 

When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

Cancer of the cervix is not the only thing that can cause vaginal bleeding – the culprit could be one of any number of different conditions.

❖     Your medical history, age and fertility will determine the most likely cause of your vaginal bleeding.

❖     It is never normal to experience vaginal bleeding after menopause. Be sure to visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you’ve gone through menopause and have vaginal bleeding.

❖      Evaluation by your healthcare provider may be necessary if you frequently bleed between periods or bleed very heavily during your period.

❖      Go to a hospital emergency department for care if you have vaginal bleeding that results in you feeling light-headed or faint, fainting or feeling weak.

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