Quickly, cervical cancer is becoming one of the greatest medical concerns of the century. According to the latest estimations by the American Cancer Society, in 2016 around 12,990 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed only in the United States and around 4,120 women will die from the condition in the USA alone. This expected estimation is enough to place cervical cancer as one of the ultimate health related threats of the time.
Cervical cancer can affect any sexually active women. However, in most of the cases it affects the women at middle-age. The occurrence of cervical cancer after the age of 50 years and before the age of 20 years is actually less. However, it does not put the women out of the 20-50 yearsage range out of risk, but the chances are lower. Cervical Cancer is caused by the Human Papilomavirus commonly known as HPV and the condition can be treated effectively only when diagnosed at an early stage.
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Cervical cancer starts in the cells that line the cervix, which is the lower part of the Uterus. The cancer, when left untreated, spreads to the nearby cells, slowly infecting the whole reproductive system and beyond.
One of the primary concerns of cervical cancer, which has also added extensively to the rate of mortality due to this condition, is the minimum to no symptoms produced during the early stages of the cancer. During the early stage, usually cervical cancer creates only very mild symptoms that are often ignored by women and the symptoms become prominent, only after the cancer has spread and reached an advanced stage, when it can hardly be treated with success.
So, the only way to be safe from this dreaded condition is to be fully aware about the signs and symptoms of the disease and to seek medical help immediately after you have noticed any changes in your sexual organs or menstrual cycle. Here is a brief account of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer that you need to be aware of,
- Unexpected vaginal bleeding: An unexpected vaginal bleeding between periods can be an indicator of cervical cancer. So, if you suddenly start experiencing even mild bleeding between your periods, which might or might not be regular, it needs quick medical attention. This type of bleeding can also occur after sexual intercourse or after menopause.
However, all unexpected vaginal bleeding might not be a symptom of cervical cancer, but it is best suggested to check it out with your gynecologist to be absolutely sure.
- Unusual vaginal discharge: This is another common symptom of cervical cancer. A foul smelling white or pink discharge from the vagina that is different from normal discharge can be a symptom of cervical cancer. Again this discharge can be regular or irregular in occurrence and in both the cases it needs medical attention.
This unusual vaginal discharge is usually watery in form and it is always accompanied with a foul smell. The discharge can be light or heavy and can also be mixed with blood, giving it a light pink tinge. So, if there is a foul smelling vaginal discharge that does not look normal, report to your doctor immediately.
- Painful intercourse: Painful intercourse can be a primary sign of cervical cancer. As the cancer spreads, it can make the area really sensitive, which can be a cause for the pain during intercourse. The pain indicates abnormal changes in the cervix and might or might not be caused due to cervical cancer.
So, if you suddenly start to experience pain during intercourse, make it a point to consult your doctor. It might also be some other disease that can be cured quickly with prompt medical attention. Do not suffer alone.
- Pelvic pain: Pelvic pain is quite common in women particularly during their menstrual cycle, which is also accompanied by cramping and it is not necessarily a sign of cervical cancer. However, if you start experiencing pelvic pain at unusual times and for longer periods, there is certainly a good chance of something being wrong.
While experiencing unusual pelvic pain might be a sign of cervical cancer, it does not necessarily mean that you have pelvic cancer. However, if you are experiencing unusual pelvic pain, it needs medical attention in every case.
- Problems in urinating: Problem and discomfort during urination is one of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer. You might feel a stinging or burning sensation while urinating. This symptom usually occurs when the cancer has already spread to the nearby tissues and needs immediate medical attention.
However, urinary discomfort can be caused due to several other reasons. Starting from drinking less water and dehydration to a urinal track infection all can result into problems in urinating. However, if the problem persists for more than a day, you should seek medical attention.
- Discomfort in defecating: Discomfort and problem in defecating is also a common warning sign of cervical cancer. However, this symptom occurs only at a very advanced stage of cervical cancer and hence if you find that the discomfort is not due to any other common reasons, like constipation or an unhealthy diet, you should opt for a checkup immediately.
Always keep in mind, if a symptom is caused due to something minor, it will go away on its own on a day or two. But you should not wait more than two days for the problem to subside on its’ own. If it persists after two days, you should get medical help immediately.
- Unusually heavy period: If you have suddenly started to have periods that are much heavier than usual and the period is also lasting for more days than normal, you should seek for medical attention. Cervical cancer is often associated with heavier and longer menstruation periods. So if you think something is not normal, get medical attention without delay.
However, heavier and longer periods can be a symptom of many other conditions, raging from anemia to cervical polyps or fibrosis; and in every case, getting medical help at the earliest is necessary.
- Leakage of urine or feces from vagina: This is a very advanced symptom of cervical cancer and is usually observed at a later stage. When the cancer is spread on the nearby tissue it can cause leakage of urine or feces through vagina. This type of symptom is rare for any other disease and needs serious medical help.
- Unexplained weight loss: Unexplained weight loss is a common symptom for cancer and this type of weight loss is quite easy to differentiate than normal weight loss. As the cancer cells start to grow at the expense of the other healthy cells of the body, an unexplained weight loss is followed.
Similar type of unexplained weight loss can be observed in case of HIV. If you happen to lose 6-10 kilos or more weight in a month without making any changes in your lifestyle and eating habits, you should get medical assistance immediately as unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of various serious illnesses.
- Leg pain or swelling: Unusual pain and swelling in legs is often experienced by women with cervical cancer. As the cancer starts spreading in the pelvic region, it obstructs the arteries and the lymph nodes, causing swelling as well as pain in the lower part of the body, particularly the legs.
You can easily differentiate a normal leg pain from the leg pain caused due to cervical cancer through its intensity and persistence. While normal leg pain reduces after taking rest, the leg pain caused due to cervical cancer will seem to only increase with time.
- Fatigue: We all experience fatigue at some time of the day but the fatigue caused due to cervical cancer is something that will not improve even after taking adequate rest or even health supplements. The same type of fatigue is also common in case of HIV.
If you have suddenly started to feel exhausted throughout the day even after taking proper rest, you should consult your doctor immediately to ensure that it is not a sign of any major disease.
- Lack of appetite: This is a general symptom of cancer and is also observed in women suffering from cervical cancer. However, lack of appetite might not be a distinguishing sign of cervical cancer, but when there is lack of appetite, coupled with unexplained weight loss, cervical pain and other symptoms, it certainly indicates towards cervical cancer.
- Loss in bone density: This symptom becomes evident only when the cervical cancer has spread out fully. It can cause loss in the bone density, which can result into easy bone fractures. However, bone fracture can also be caused due to lack of calcium in the body.
Cervical cancer is extremely dreaded particularly because it produces no symptom during the early stage, and when there are symptoms, it is already too late to be treated. So, the best way is to follow all the preventive measures of cervical cancer right from your early 20s.
[ Hindi version ]