Cervical cancer symptoms and risk factors

November 12, 2012

Cervical cancer symptoms and risk factors

Cervical cancer is a notoriously difficult cancer to diagnose – by the time it is detected it can be too late.

Cervical cancer symptoms are notoriously difficult to detect, particularly in the early stages of the disease. This makes screening for the disease particularly important, especially for women who are sexually active. Cervical cancer is a malignant uterine cancer occurring in the top of the cervix (or neck) of the womb

Research has confirmed that women who have been sexually active since a young age with a number of partners are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. This is, in part, due to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a type of genital wart. HPV is an invisible sexually transmitted disease; if warts are present they may not be visible to the naked eye. The presence of an HPV infection should not be thought of as a cervical cancer sympt0m – but it should be investigated and treated promptly.

Pap smear tests

Every woman should ensure that she undergoes a regular pap smear test – waiting until you suspect you have cervical cancer symptoms is probably going to be too late. When caught in the early stages cervical cancer is eminently treatable – regular Pap smear tests will provide the opportunity for early detection and treatment of the disease. Any abnormal or precancerous cells found as a result of a pap smear can be easily removed using laser therapy.

Other risk factors

Other risk factors for cervical cancer included smoking, long term use of the contraceptive pill and incorrect use of tampons.

Cervical cancer symptoms

The early stages of cervical cancer are, as has been stated, usually almost symptom free. However, any of the following symptoms should be considered as requiring further investigation -

  • Irregular bleeding – either after intercourse or during the menstrual cycle

  • Post menopausal vaginal bleeding

  • Vaginal discharge which may be viscous and have an unpleasant smell

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Pain when urinating

In the later stages of the disease cervical cancer symptoms may also include

  • Back pain

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Loss of appetite and a feeling of fullness even after eating a small amount

  • Unexplained or unexpected bone fractures

  • Swollen legs

Prevention

As with many conditions, where cervical cancer is concerned prevention is much better than cure. The development of a vaccine for HPV is a huge advancement in preventing the spread of this sexually transmitted disease, known to play a role in the development of cervical cancer and which is also thought to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of oral and throat cancers. The vaccine is typically administered to teenage girls before they become sexually active. Ongoing discussion into the efficacy of immunising boys has yet to reach a definite conclusion.

Regular physical activity, eating a healthy well balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods from all food groups, stopping smoking and keeping alcohol consumption to a moderate level as well as practicing safe sex (or abstinence) are all lifestyle choices that we can implement in order to maintain a healthy body and reduce the risk of developing cancer of any kind.

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