Forty years ago, the leading cause of death in women was cervical cancer. Today that number has dropped significantly. This decrease is due in large part to preventative measures taken by women. Receiving regular pap smears helps to identify cervical cancer in its earliest stages. Knowing the warning signs is another way to help prevent cervical. Here are seven ways to identify cervical cancer in its early stages.
1. Vaginal discharge
While some vaginal discharge is normal, a sudden increase of discharge is a key sign of cervical cancer. It may be a watery, pale, bloody, foul-smelling discharge that is a cause for alarm.
2. Uncomfortable/irregular urination
Blockage of the kidneys can occur from cervical cancer. This blockage will cause urination to become uncomfortable and sometimes difficult. You may even experience frequent urges to use the restroom without cause.
3. Unusual bleeding
If you notice unusual bleeding at any point, this could be a sign of cervical cancer. Unusual bleeding will occur after vaginal intercourse, postmenopausal bleeding, spotting between periods or unusually long periods. Sometimes, abnormal bleeding is thought to be normal spotting between periods. Ask your doctor to help you identify what the source of bleeding is.
4. Painful intercourse
While having vaginal intercourse, you may experience some pain and discomfort. This pain can be caused by infections that can lead to cervical cancer. Note if you experience any bleeding during or after intercourse as well, as this too could be a sign of cervical cancer.
5. Weight loss
As with multiple other forms of cancer, unexplained weight loss is an indication of cervical cancer. In an effort to fight off infection, our bodies produce small proteins called cytokines. These break down fat at a much higher rate than normal. Regardless of how much food is consumed, weight loss continues. This is not often a symptom until cervical cancer is in its advanced stages.
6. Leg pain
In its later stages, cervical cancer can spread to other areas of the body. If the tumor presses on nerves in the pelvic wall, leg pain is a likely result. You may also notice pain in your lower back and abdomen.
In some advanced cases, cervical cancer causes a buildup of urine in the kidneys. This buildup can result in your ankles, feet and hands to swell.
Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
There are many risk factors involved with cervical cancer including:
- Not receiving the HPV vaccination
- Multiple sexual partners - The more partners you’ve had intercourse with, the more likely one of them has or previously had HPV.
- Sexual activity at a young age - If you’re first sexual experience was at a younger age, you have a greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Intercourse with a partner who has had cervical cancer
- Weak immune system - If your immune system is weakened by another illness, you might be more likely to develop HPV.
Treatment Options Available
The treatment of cervical cancer is highly dependant upon the different stages. If caught early, cervical cancer is highly treatable, with a 93 percent survival rate in the first 5 years after diagnosis. If cervical cancer is found in its more advanced stages, treatments may include:
- Targeted therapy
How to Prevent Cervical Cancer
The best thing any woman can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to schedule her annual gynecological exam. The gynecology services provided at UnityPoint Health - Trinity offers the highest quality of care. Even the smallest of steps can help to maintain your overall quality of life for years to come. If you have any questions regarding the information in this article, contact the experts at Trinity today!
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