Cervical cancer can be deadly for women. While the statistics about this cancer are alarming, cervical cancer can be prevented, and treated if caught early. In most cases, cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is highly transmittable. This virus is an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and it comes in more than 100 types, some of which can cause cervical cancer. An HPV infection might disappear on its own, but it could sometimes cause abnormal cell growth that may lead to cervical cancer. The signs for cervical cancer might not be as noticeable or apparent as the symptoms for breast cancer, but there are ways to observe them. Contact a gynecologist immediately if you notice the following symptoms:
1. Unusual discharge
When the cancer starts growing inside the cervix, the cells in the lining of the uterus begin to produce a watery discharge.
According to gynecologist Rosa Maria Leme, “The appearance of small warts (external or internal) serves as a red flag for some diseases such as HPV, which greatly increases the chances of cervical cancer in women.”
3. Pain or bleeding
Cervical cancer grows on the walls of the cervix and causes it to dry out and even crack, which results in discomfort and bleeding. There may also be rectal or bladder bleeding. Visit your doctor immediately if you notice any bleeding outside your menstrual period.
If you haven’t changed your eating habits but still feel fatigued, or if your heart speeds up after normal exertion, you may have symptoms of anemia. Anemia can be caused by abnormal bleeding, which is often a sign of cervical cancer.
5. Urinary problems
When the cervix swells, it can cause the bladder and kidneys to become compressed, thus obstructing the passage of urine. As a result, you may not be able to completely empty your bladder, which causes pain and/or a urinary tract infection.
6. Continuous pain in the legs, hips or back
A swollen cervix also compresses the internal organs. It may also compress the blood vessels, and make it difficult for the blood to reach the pelvis and legs, thus causing pain and swelling in the legs and ankles.
7. Weight loss
Most forms of cancer decrease or even suppress appetite. The swelling of the cervix can compress the stomach, which results in decreased appetite and weight loss.
Please note that these symptoms are not necessarily a sign of cervical cancer. Only a doctor can make that diagnosis. There are risk factors for developing HPV, and can be contracted by both men and women. The best-known risk factors for cervical cancer are:
- Smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having unprotected sex
- Having low immunity
Since an STI is the most common cause of cervical cancer, it is good to be aware of the signs and symptoms of HPV. It is highly recommended to perform preventative tests like a pap smear which can help detect cervical cancer in its early stages. Those preventive tests (like a pap smear) should be done once a year.