It is estimated that 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year in the US. Most of the time, early cervical cancer has absolutely no symptoms. It is not until the disease has progressed when symptoms begin to appear. And unlike most cancers, cervical cancer can actually be prevented in the majority of cases. So read on…
Early symptoms that MAY occur can include:
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause
• Any bleeding after menopause
• Continuous vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling
• Periods become heavier and last longer than usual
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer MAY include:
• Back pain
• Bone fractures
• Heavy bleeding from the vagina
• Leaking of urine or feces from the vagina
• Leg pain
• Loss of appetite
• Pelvic pain
• Single swollen leg
• Weight loss
*** Remember, all of these cervical cancer symptoms can be caused by other health conditions such as infections. Therefore, keep your doctor apprised of any changes in health that you may be experiencing.
Is there anything that women can do to AVOID being diagnosed with cervical cancer?
The short answer is YES… for the vast majority of women, a few simple steps can save them from contracting cervical cancer. Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…
1. Cervical cancer usually develops very slowly. It starts as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. This precancerous condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100% treatable. Fewer than 9% of cervical cancers escape being picked up by routine pap tests. That is why it is so important for women to get regular (annual) Pap smears. Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular Pap smears or they have not followed up on abnormal Pap smear results. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that women who did not get regular Pap tests were five times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. So GET YOUR PAP TESTS every year.
2. A vaccine called Gardasil now exists to help protect against cervical cancer-causing HPV. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. There are many different types of HPV. Some strains lead to cervical cancer. Other strains may cause genital warts, while others do not cause any problems at all. By getting vaccinated for human papilloma virus, or HPV, a girl reduces her lifetime risk of developing the disease by 70 percent, studies suggest.