8 Silent Signs of Cervical Cancer You Should Never Ignore
Cervical cancer is one of the easiest to prevent with a routine Pap smear and regular gynecological exams. But about 13,000 new cases will still be diagnosed this year. See your doctor if you notice any of these potential symptoms of cervical cancer.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
If you’re experiencing random bleeding in the middle of the month or irregular or heavier-than-usual menstruation, these could be signs of cervical cancer. Vaginal bleeding can also occur in postmenopausal women who no longer have menstrual periods. This, however, is not normal and could be a sign of cervical cancer or another problem. “The most common subtle signs of cervical cancer are abnormal bleeding of any kind,” says John Moroney, MD, associate professor in gynecologic oncology at the University of Chicago. Here are other cancer symptoms women are likely to ignore.
Bleeding after sex
Bleeding after vaginal intercourse, known medically as “post-coital bleeding,” could also be a sign of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, which is the lower, narrow end of the uterus that connects to the vagina. When a patient develops cervical cancer, the cells begin to multiple abnormally and rapidly and can form a mass composed of cancerous tissue. This mass is what bleeds when a woman has intercourse. “We call it ‘friable’ like it wants to bleed easily,” says Tracy Scheller, MD, a gynecologist in Englewood, New Jersey. “It wants to bleed when it’s touched. So, that’s why you can get that bleeding in the middle of the month [and] bleeding with intercourse.”
Out-of-the-ordinary vaginal discharge that is pale, watery, foul smelling, brown, or mixed with blood is a common sign of cervical cancer. It’s normal and healthy for discharge to change throughout the month, varying in thickness, opacity, and consistency. But if you have persistent discharge that has a different color, or that has an odor, it could be the result of the “dying tissue” created by cervical cancer, Dr. Scheller says. Are you nervous to talk to your doctor sometimes? Don’t worry because here are the answers to embarrassing questions you’re afraid to ask your gynecologist.
Pelvic and/or back pain
If you’re experiencing pelvic or back pain, it might be because of more advanced cervical cancer. At this point, it’s possible that the tumor has grown so much that it’s now pressing down on the lower back or tailbone. “It’s like ‘oh I’m getting a menstrual cramp’ back pain,” Dr. Scheller says. Make sure you’re also not ignoring these silent signs of bladder cancer.
Pain during sex
In most cases, pain during intercourse is probably not due to cancer, if you’re experiencing it in addition to other potential cervical cancer symptoms, it might be the result of tumor growth throughout tissues and reproductive organs. In addition to cervical cancer, here are 14 things that ob-gyns also want you to know about ovarian cancer.
A single swollen leg
“Most times these cancers are asymptomatic until their pain causes other symptoms, like compression of a nerve,” Dr. Moroney says. When a tumor continues to grow, it tries to make space out of surrounding soft tissues. In doing so, the tumor can compress a nerve, which causes pain. And if this pain is the result of advanced cervical cancer, it might be accompanied by one-sided legging swelling.
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Like many other cancers, signs of cervical cancer can include loss of appetite and weight loss. The tumor leads to the production of small proteins called cytokines. Some of these proteins not only suppress your appetite but also change some of your metabolism to break down fat at a higher rate than normal, causing you to lose muscle mass. As the cancer gets more advanced, weight loss accelerates from being subtle to occurring faster, Dr. Moroney says. Here are the patient habits that bother gynecologists the most.
If you’re feeling more lethargic and tired than usual, it could be a sign of cervical cancer, especially when combined with many other symptoms. Essentially when there’s a disease in your body, it will work that much harder to try to fight it off. As a result of all this extra effort, your body becomes tired. Next make sure you know the truth and avoid believing the myths about ovarian cancer.