Cervical cancer was at a time one of the leading causes of deaths by cancer in America until Pap smear tests came into the picture. This routine test is important to check for any abnormal cells in the cervix so that it can be detected early and treated. Nowadays, Pap smear tests are recommended to women at 21 years of age or since they get sexually active.
Although Pap smear tests are not 100% accurate, doctors recommend this test to detect cervical cancer at an early stage when it is still treatable. Dr. Eloise Chapman-Davis, a gynaecological oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian says, “…one of the biggest risk factors of getting cervical cancer is not having had a Pap smear within the past five years.” But she also says that just a Pap smear test is not enough, an individual must also keep an eye on these physical symptoms and get checked with a gynaecologist.
Here are 7 symptoms of cervical cancer that you must absolutely never ignore.
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding
A primary and most prominent red flag that you must visit your gynaecologist for a checkup is when you experience bleeding in between your periods, after sex or after menopause. This abnormal bleeding from the vagina generally indicates an advanced stage of cervical cancer and it means that a cervical tumour has affected the neighbouring tissues as well. You must visit your gynaecologist at once.
(Know the Vaginal Hygiene you should Strictly Follow)
2. Extremely heavy flow
If your periods extend a day or two or your experience heavy flow within those five days, it is normal. But here we are talking about periods that might last for more than two weeks at a stretch with a heavy flow or having periods twice in a month.
You should consult your gynaecologist if you notice any abnormality in your period cycle.
3. Vaginal discharge with unusual colour and body
We, women, have vaginal discharge and it is common. This is the way by which the vagina naturally cleans and disinfects itself. But you must keep an eye on what type of vaginal discharge you are getting. An abnormal vaginal discharge might indicate that you can have a number of vaginal health issues, maybe an infection. But in cervical cancer, you may have a foul-smelling pink or dark coloured bloody discharge with chunks of tissues, called necrotic material.
Dr. Chapman-Davis adds, “masses and tumours secrete fluid, that could contribute to a continuous, watery discharge that seems to occur for no reason.”
4. Pain in the pelvic area, back, and legs
If you are experiencing pelvic pain, you might be having some changes in the cervix and a visit to the doctor is necessary. But when cervical cancer reaches its advanced stages and spreads to the intestine, bladder, lungs or liver, you might be having pain in your legs and back.
5. Extreme tiredness
Cervical cancer is rarely diagnosed until the later stages and so it shares some symptoms common in all types of cancer. Major fatigue is one such symptom. Since cervical cancer involves abnormally heavy blood flow, it reduces the number of red blood cells and oxygen that makes you anaemic over time, thus leading to the exhaustion.
6. Feeling pukish
In most cases of cancer, you feel nauseated, pukish and have indigestion. This happens in cervical cancer too. In advanced stages, the cervix swells into the abdominal cavity and compresses the gastrointestinal tract that leads to chronic acid reflux and indigestion.
7. Unexplained weight loss
Losing 5–10% of your body weight over six months without dieting or a change in food habit is serious and needs medical intervention.
Don’t wait, go ahead and call your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. An early diagnosis leads to early treatment and cure.