Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect the female reproductive system. In its early stages, cervical cancer does not usually have any symptoms, and it can be hard to detect. In the more advanced stages, symptoms of cervical cancer may include such problems as unexplained bleeding or an unusual discharge.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) has a significant role in causing cervical cancer. This virus is transmitted sexually, and, when it is in a woman’s vaginal cavity, it ends up on the cervix. Normally, the immune system handles the invading virus, killing it and removing it from the woman’s body before it can do any harm. In some cases, though, it is not destroyed and it stays in the body. It can lie dormant for years before causing problems, but eventually it will cause some of the cervical cells to convert and become cancer cells.
To diagnose cervical cancer, all women are advised to get a Pap test every year. In this test the doctor removes some cells from the surface of the cervix. They are then sent to a laboratory, where they are evaluated to determine whether or not they are cancerous. This test is important to do on a regular basis, even if there are no symptoms of cervical cancer present. Since early cervical cancer has the best chance of being cured, but produces no symptoms, the Pap test is usually the only way such cancer is found.
One of the symptoms of cervical cancer that has reached a more advanced stage is unusual vaginal bleeding. If the bleeding occurs in a post-menopausal woman, it is a definite sign that there is a problem that needs to be investigated and addressed. Bleeding between periods can also be a symptom of cervical cancer, as can bleeding after intercourse. Vaginal discharge of a watery fluid, usually tinged with some blood and often with a foul odor, is another possible indicator of cervical cancer and should be checked out immediately.
Symptoms of cervical cancer involving pain include pain in the pelvic area or pain during intercourse. While this can have causes other than cervical cancer, it is best to investigate the problem as soon as possible, to determine the source of the pain. If cervical cancer is found it can be treated, and the sooner it is discovered the more likely it can be cured. Women who ignore symptoms of cervical cancer run the risk allowing cancer to continue advancing, causing a poor prognosis.