As the third leading cancer in women around the world, cervical cancer claimed the lives of over 4,000 women in 2008. This is shocking and disturbing considering the cancer is 100% treatable when caught in its early stages. By making themselves aware of the symptoms for the disease, women can better arm themselves against this dangerous, but preventable disease and seek the treatment they need.
In its earliest stages, there may be no symptoms for cervical cancer, and only a pap smear will reveal precancerous cells. As the disease progresses, though, there may be some small symptoms. For example, women may experience some discomfort or vaginal bleeding either during or after sexual activity. Others may experience spotting between periods. Some of these earliest signs may not be distinguishable from many other ailments, so women should be sure always to seek regular screenings from their doctor.
It is only once the cancer truly begins to develop that most patients ever notice any abnormal or alarming symptoms. Some may experience continuous and abnormally colored discharge between periods, or periods that last longer than a week. Others may experience either abdominal discomfort ormore urgent and more frequent urination as growths place pressure on the bladder. Still others may only experience problems with bowel movements, such as constipation or diarrhea. Though these symptoms are associated with other diseases of the vagina and or cervix, the presence of any could indicate the need for immediate medical care.
Intermediate and Progressive Symptoms
If patients ignore the above symptoms, the cancer may continue to grow and begin producing much more serious symptoms. What had been mere abdominal discomfort progresses into persistent pain and pressure in the pelvic areathat normal remedies will fail to alleviate. Patients may find it more difficult to eat as they feel full almost immediately. Post-coital bleeding will likely increase and spotting will become much more frequent. If any of these symptoms increase, they are signs that the cancer is entering its later stages, and may soon metastasize.
Symptoms of Advanced Cervical Cancer
Once the cancer begins spreading, women will begin to experience symptoms that are more difficult. The abdomen may begin bloating as fluid builds up in the abdominal cavity. This process, known as ascites, is a sign that the disease is in its latest stages and may have already begun to affect other organs. The body may begin leaking urine or feces as the walls around the intestines become affected. The woman will likely experience serious back pain, pain in her joins, and circulation troubles in her lower extremities. She may begin to lose weight and find it impossible to keep down food.
Because cervical cancer can often pass unnoticed with few or no symptoms in the early stages, women should always be quick to respond if and when symptoms do occur. The earlier treatment is pursued the more likely it is that doctors can address the cancer before it progresses to its dangerous later stages.