For women, cervical or cervix cancer can be deadly. While statistics about this cancer is frightening, cervical cancer can be prevented, and treated if caught early.
Cervical cancer is most commonly caused by HPV or the human papillomavirus, which is highly contagious. This virus is an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and comes in many types but only some cause cervical cancer. An HPV infection might go away on its own or could cause abnormal cell growth that may lead to cervical cancer.
The signs for cervical cancer may not be as obvious or apparent as breast cancer but there are ways to observe the signs. Contact a gynecologist immediately if you notice:
1. Unusual discharge
When the cancer begins to grow inside the cervix, the cells of the uterine wall begin to rid, which produces a watery discharge.
According to gynecologist Rosa Maria Leme, “The appearance of small warts (externally or internally) serve as a red flag…diseases such as HPV, which can greatly increases the chances of cervical cancer in women.”
3. Pain or bleeding
Cervical cancer grows on the walls of the cervix which can dry out and even crack, causing discomfort and bleeding. There may also be rectal or bladder bleeding. Any bleeding outside your menstrual period should be investigated.
If your eating habits have not changed and you still feel fatigued, or if your heart speeds up after normal exertion, you may have symptoms of anemia. Anemia can be caused by abnormal bleeding, which often accompanies cervical cancer.
5. Urinary problems
As the cervix swells, the bladder and kidneys may be compressed, obstructing the passage of urine. As a result, you may not be able to completely empty your bladder, causing pain and/or a urinary tract infection.
6. Continuous pain in the legs, hips or back
Also, the swelling cervix compresses internal organs. Blood vessels may also be compressed, making it difficult for blood to reach the pelvis and legs, causing pain and swelling in the legs and ankles.
7. Weight loss
Most forms of cancers decrease or even suppress appetite. The swelling of the cervix can compress the stomach, resulting in decreased appetite and weight loss.
Please note that these symptoms do not necessarily signify cervical cancer. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis. There are risk factors for developing HPV, and can be contracted by both men and women.
The best-known risk factors for cervical cancer are
- Smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having unprotected sex
- Having low immunity
Because an STI is the most common cause of cervical cancer, it is good to be aware of the signs and symptoms of HPV. Additionally, preventative exams like a pap smear can help detect cervical cancer early on. Those preventive exams (like a pap smear) should be yearly.