Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, after breast cancer. It is caused by recurrent infection of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). However, unlike breast cancer, cervical cancer is preventable thanks to the development of vaccines against HPV. AAlso, current guidelines encourage a woman to go for screening tests, particularly the Pap test and HPV test, in order to catch the cancer at its earliest stage.
The 6 Important Signs of Cervical Cancer
Of course, a woman should still be very vigilant about any signs and symptoms developing in her body which may be indicative of cervical cancer. Here are the six most important signs of cervical cancer that you should watch out for:
1) Vaginal Discharge
You may observe a sudden increase in your vaginal discharge from the normal. This discharge is often described as watery, pale, sometimes bloody, and foul smelling. This unusual discharge may occur in between periods or after menopause.
2) Irregular/uncomfortable urination
Cervical cancer may cause blockages inside your kidneys. When this happens, you are unable to pass out urine completely. You tend to go to the toilet frequently but once you get down to business, it is difficult to urinate and may be uncomfortable and even painful.
3) Unusual bleeding
You may experience periods that are longer and heavier. There may also be some spotting and bleeding in between periods. Bleeding may also be observed after sex or after douching. Bleeding may also occur following a pelvic exam. Cervical cancer should also be considered in women who are postmenopausal and no longer have their periods, but experience a recurrence of bleeding.
4) Leg pain
The swelling of a cervix that is afflicted with cancer causes obstruction of blood flow. This obstruction causes swelling in the leg accompanied by sensations of soreness and pain.
5) Dyspareunia or painful sex
Painful sexual intercourse is one of the common symptoms of cervical cancer. A cervix that is infected by HPV or is already afflicted with cancer becomes inflamed, so that the thrusts of the penis against the cervix may cause pain, not only in the pelvis, but also in the fronts of the thighs.
6) Unexplained weight loss
Because cervical cancer is caused by HPV, the body releases proteins called cytokines, which tend to break down fats at a rate that is faster and higher than normal. No much how much food you consume, you still experience weight loss. This symptom is often seen in patients in their advanced stages of cervical cancer.
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, you should have yourself checked as soon as possible by your doctor.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
It is not enough that you recognize the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. You need to undergo screening before these symptoms develop.
The current guidelines for cervical cancer screening are as follows…
- Girls below the age of 21 years old shall not have cervical cancer screening yet.
- For women age 21-29 (the time when they are sexually active), Pap test screening alone should be done every three years. HPV testing is NOT included.
- For women 30 years old and above, both Pap test and HPV testing should be done every five years. Or the alternative is that you continue your Pap test (without the HPV test) every three years.
- Screening need no longer be done in women above the age of 65 who have had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests and at least two negative HPV tests during the last 10 years, with the most recent screening done during the last five years.
- Women above the age of 65 with a history of cervical cancer must continue routine screening for an additional 20 years at least.
- Women who have had a hysterectomy no longer need undergo screening.
While screening will aid in the early detection of cervical cancer, it is strongly recommended that girls and young women should get vaccinated against HPV before they become sexually active, usually between the ages of 9 and 25 years old.
Don’t delay. Get yourself vaccinated and make cervical cancer prevention an important part of your health routine today.