Early Signs of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer generally affects women under 35 years of age. The third most common type of cancer, it had a very high death rate in the 1990’s. But, the death rate has seen a gradual decrease in the recent years, thanks to the preliminary tests and screenings done in most hospitals. As the name suggests, this cancer affects the cervix, which is located at the lower part of the uterus. Cervix can also be described as the opening on top of the vagina.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes this cancer. Sometimes, this virus can stay dormant in the body for years without causing any cancerous condition. So, the person may be affected by cancer many years after she was infected. Sexual habits have a strong influence on the development and spreading of this disease. Unsafe practices include early sexual interaction, multiple sexual partners and smoking.
The early signs that indicate the onset of cervical cancer include:
• Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods. It should not be dismissed just as spotting, but should be checked.
• Bleeding after menopause could also be a major indicator, and should be checked immediately
• Heavy menstrual flow, which could last longer than the usual period
• Severe pain during sexual intercourse
• Pale, watery or brown vaginal discharge that has a foul smell. Sometimes, the vaginal discharge may have a little blood
• Lot of difficulty defecating or urinating
• General body weakness and unexplained weight loss
• Swelling of legs
Though these signs and symptoms could indicate cervical cancer, it is always good to do a medical checkup. Pap smear tests and biopsy tests help confirm the condition. Pap smear is a very simple test that is used to study the cervical cells. While doing cancer screenings, doctors check the condition of the cervix to identify changes, if any. The oncologist will also try to observe if there are any changes in the cervical cells using biopsy tests.
The best method to prevent this disease is to do regular screenings. Women should go for pap tests from 21 years of age or after the first sexual intercourse (whichever is first). The tests should be done at least once in three years.
Like all diseases, the earlier cervical cancer is detected, the easier and the more effective treatment could become. Keeping track of the menstrual cycle, spotting any sudden changes in the regular cycles and regular medical checkup are the best ways to identify the early signs of cervical cancer.