Cervical cancer is a rare illness that impacts more than 13,000 women each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer starts when the cells in the lining of the cervix multiply at a fast rate. The cells aren’t cancerous at first but, over time, the precancerous cells can morph into cancers cells. It can take several years for this process to take place.
Cervical cancer is most commonly found in women ages 35 to 44, according to the American Cancer Society. Previously, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among US women. Those numbers, however, have decreased with the increase of medical tests like pap smears and the HPV vaccine.
Routine exams can help protect you from cervical cancer and knowing the symptoms can help you catch it early. Here are some of the more common signs that you may have cervical cancer.
You experience irregular bleeding.
Irregular bleeding is the most common symptom of cervical cancer, according to Healthline.
Usually, it happens in between periods or after you’ve had sex. It can also occur in women who are postmenopausal, meaning they no longer get a period. Irregular bleeding may show up in small amounts such as streaks or spots. If you notice a pattern, contact your doctor right away to be tested for cervical cancer.
You experience abnormal vaginal discharge.
A little vaginal discharge every now and then is totally normal. But Healthline reports that white, clear, watery, or brown discharge can be a sign that you have cervical cancer. Additionally, if your discharge contains blood or has a vile smell it may be a sign of cervical cancer.
You have pain during sex.
Pain during sex is one of the first signs of cervical cancer, according to the Cancer Treatment Centres of America. The discomfort you may experience during intercourse can be caused by tumour growth in your tissues and reproductive organs. It can also, however, be caused by a range of other things.
Your lower back hurts.
It might be easy to chalk up your back pain to poor posture or a lousy mattress, but this can be indicative of cervical cancer. Pain may also be felt near your appendix, or in the general region of your pelvis sort of pelvic pain. These can all be signs of advanced cervical cancer, according to the Cancer Treatment Centres of America.
You are losing weight without trying.
Cancer Treatment Centres of America notes that unexplained weight loss is a sign of advanced cervical cancer. If you notice that you are shedding weight without modifying your diet or intentional exercise, let your doctor know. Weight loss is a common symptom that is associated with many different types of cancer. It can be especially important to get checked for cervical cancer if you are experiencing weight loss accompanied by any of these other symptoms.
You are more tired than usual.
We are all a little groggy every now and then, but WebMD notes that fatigue can be a sign of cervical cancer. If you notice you are always tired – even after a solid eight hours of sleep – you might have cervical cancer. If you aren’t sure how long you are sleeping each night, start a sleep journal or download a sleep tracking app. This will help you log sleeping hours to share with your doctor.
Keep in mind, however, that there are various causes for fatigue with cervical cancer being a rare one.
You feel pain or swelling in your legs.
Pain or swelling in your legs can be a possible sign of cervical cancer. Swelling and leg pain happen for a number of reasons, so it is important to speak up with you experience these symptoms. One potential cause, however, happens when a tumour in your pelvic region presses up against the pelvic wall. This places pressure on your nerves, causing the leg pain and swelling.
Another is a build-up of fluid in the tissue, called lymphoedema which can cause certain body parts to become swollen – usually the legs, in cases of cervical cancer.
You can’t hold your pee in.
Increased pressure from cancerous tumours in your pelvic area can push against your bladder. This can cause urine to leak from your vagina and is a possible sign of cervical cancer. If you notice that you are unable to hold in your urine, let your doctor know.
Your bones are fracturing or breaking during low-impact injuries.
Advanced cervical cancer can spread to your bones, according to Cancer Research UK. This causes your bones to ache and breakdown. As your bones become weaker, it can be easier for them to fracture or break.
Your appetite is dwindling.
A reduced appetite can be a sign of cervical cancer and many other cancers in general. If you notice that you are feeling less hungry than you usually are, bring it up with your doctor. It is important that you continue to eat healthy foods to provide your body with the necessary nutrients it needs.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.