What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a disease in the cervix where cells grow abnormally and uncontrollably developing into tumors. The cervix is the cylindrical part of the uterus and is located within the pelvic cavity, anterior to the rectum, and posterior to the bladder. Its function is primarily related to reproduction wherein it houses the developing fetus until the day of birth.
In the United States, this kind of cancer cancer is known to be the third most common type of cancer of the female reproductive tract. There are different types of cancer, the most common of which is the squamous cell carcinoma. Cervical cancer is more prevalent among women in developing countries, especially poor women since they seldom receive regular checkups. Therefore, the disease is usually diagnosed already at its later stage.
The progress of the disease is typically very slow. During the early stages, it is usually asymptomatic. However, as the abnormal cells grow, symptoms of cervical cancer may begin to appear and these include the following:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding. A healthy cervix may have a very small amount of bleeding. However, women with cancer of the cervix may suffer light or heavy bleeding after certain activities. This may occur between regular menstrual periods, after douching or sexual intercourse, or after pelvic exam. This happens because of the irritation of the cervix after these activities.
Unusual vaginal discharge. The cervix produces mucus, which is important in female fertility. During intercourse, the mucus aids the sperm cells move through the cervix into the uterus. However, any vaginal discharge that is abnormally heavy, foul smelling, watery or very thick in consistency may be a symptom of cancer.
When early stages of the cancer go undiagnosed, it can become invasive and affect the surrounding organs of the cervix. During this later stage of cervical cancer, the symptoms that may manifest include the following:
Pelvic pain. Some women experience mild cramping pain associated with menstruation, which is normal and does not need medical attention. However, pelvic pain may also be a symptom of cancer. It occurs in the lower part of the abdomen between the hipbones. Many women describe it as dull aches or sharp pains and may be intermittent or constant in nature.
Painful urination. Pain during urination is one of the symptoms that women may experience if they are already in the advanced stage of cervical cancer. It is sometimes accompanied with blood in the urine. This usually occurs when the cancer cells have invaded the urinary bladder.
Painful defecation. Pain from the rectum during defecation may also be a symptom of advanced cancer of the cervix. Sometimes blood can be seen in the feces. This happens when the cancer has spread into the rectum.