Cervical cancer symptoms are important warning signs of a common reproductive tract infection known as a human papillomavirus (HPV)-related disease. The cancer of the cervix is most common in women over the age of 30. The HPV virus is believed to spread in people who are sexually active, and they can transmit the disease through skin-to-skin genital contact.
According to the American Cancer Society, by the end of 2015, there are expected to be approximately 12,900 women affected from cervical cancer in the U.S. As a result, about 4,100 women will die from the cancer.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms Women Need to Observe
For early screening and detection of cervical cancer, women should look out for a number of cervical cancer signs and symptoms:
1. Abnormal pain or bleeding: Irregular bleeding is considered the most common symptom in women with cervical cancer. Bleeding or pain may occur between menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse, or in postmenopausal women. It is recommended that you visit a doctor immediately if you experience abnormal pain or bleeding. Minor bleeding irregularities can be easy to ignore in younger women. It is always important to advise your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods.
2. Abnormal discharge: An unusual discharge from the vagina is another serious sign of cervical cancer. When cancer starts to grow in the cervix, the uterine wall cells begin to produce a watery discharge. It is possible that the discharge may look yellowish, pale, or brownish, and it may contain some blood. It may also occur after menopause and between your menstrual periods. It is also a good idea to contact your doctor immediately when an abnormal discharge is noticed.
3. Urination discomfort: Problems or discomfort with urinating is often a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Women have a high risk of urinary tract infections, and 50% experience repeat infections that sometimes occur every year. However, in other cases, urination discomfort is a sign that cervical cancer has spread to the bladder. A hint of blood may also be seen in the urine. This is a clear warning sign of cervical cancer, and your doctor should be informed immediately.
4. Genital warts: Small genital warts can be considered a red warning flag for HPV, which can significantly increase the risk of cervical cancer in women. There are many different types of HPV, but HPV-6 and HPV-11 are known to cause 90% of every form of genital warts.
5. Unusually heavy and long menstrual periods: Women with cervical cancer and irritation of the cervix will also have abnormally long and heavy menstrual periods.
6. Lack of urinary control: When the cervix swells, the bladder and kidneys may be compressed. As a result, urine flow is obstructed and you may not be able to control your bladder. Women with cervical cancer will have that sudden urge to urinate. As mentioned, patients with cervical cancer will also see blood in the urine.
7. Pain during sex: Sexual intercourse should always be an enjoyable experience. Many of the cervical cancer signs and symptoms often point to something possibly less serious; however, pain during sex is considered a symptom during the late stages of cervical cancer.
8. Anemia: Feeling constantly fatigued and weak is often a sign of anemia. Your heart rate may also increase from your normal activities. You may also experience other common symptoms of anemia, such as shortness of breath after mild exertion, headaches, dizziness or fainting, concentrating problems, cold extremities, frequent colds, and pale skin, lips, and nails. Anemia is a common symptom of abnormal bleeding, which is also a cause of cervical cancer.
9. Weight loss: Weight loss is a typical goal of obese or overweight individuals trying to maintain a healthy weight. On the other hand, unexpected and sudden weight loss can be a sign that the body is fighting off disease. Many cancers are known to suppress or lower your appetite. When the cervix swells, the stomach is compressed. As a result, the person will experience weight loss and a reduced appetite.
10. Constant pain in the back, hips, and legs: The swelling of the cervix will also compress the internal organs and the blood vessels. As a result, it is difficult for blood to flow to the legs and pelvis. The person will then experience body swelling and pain in the pelvis, legs, ankles, hips, or back.
Understand the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
There are also a number of cervical cancer risk factors. The following are a few factors that may increase the risk of cervical cancer:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: As mentioned, the sexually transmitted virus called HPV and cervical cancer are connected. There are over 100 HPV types, with 15 thought to cause cervical cancer 99% of the time. Women with genital herpes or genital warts also have a greater risk of cervical cancer. Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency (AIDS) are other sexually transmitted diseases that will also increase your risk of HPV.
- A weakened immune system: Women with weak immune systems are also at risk of cervical cancer. Potential causes of a weakened immune system include nutritional deficiencies, high stress levels, organ transplantation, cancer treatments, corticosteroid medications, or HIV/AIDS.
- Multiple sex partners: The more sex partners you have, the greater your chances of acquiring HIV.
- Early sexual activity: Having sex at an early age can increase the risk of HPV and cervical cancer. It is also important to note that giving birth at a very young age and women with at least three children in different pregnancies have a greater risk of cervical cancer.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking is commonly associated with many cancer types, including squamous cell cervical cancer.
- Age: The risk of cervical cancer is thought to increase in women in their late teens and mid-30s. Cervical cancer risk remains a risk for women over 40. As a result, regular cervical cancer screening tests are recommended.
- Race: Cervical cancer is more common in Hispanic women, American Indian women, and black women.
- Oral contraceptive use: Long-term oral contraceptive birth control pill use will slightly raise the risk of cervical cancer.
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES): From 1940 to 1970, diethylstilbestrol was a drug used to prevent miscarriages during pregnancy. Women with mothers who had taken the drug have an increased risk of cervical or vagina cancer. It is recommended that these women receive early screening for cervical cancer.
Early Detection of Cervical Cancer Based on Observed Symptoms
Based on cervical cancer symptoms, your doctor may suggest certain early detection and screening tests that can also help diagnose cervical cancer. For instance, the Pap test is considered the routine test to screen for cervical cancer and detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix.
Your doctor can often confirm cervical cancer using a number of diagnostic methods. A colposcopy and cervical biopsy will help determine the location of cancer cells on the cervix. An endocervical biopsy will detect whether cancer cells are on the cervical canal.
Also, a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or a cone biopsy may be performed to examine cervical tissue with a microscope. Other tests that may find cervical cancer include a chest X-ray of the lungs, a CT scan, an ultrasound, an MRI, a PET scan, or a biopsy of fine-needle aspiration.
Final Thoughts: What Else Can You Do?
Now you know that the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer are very important and necessary to understand to help prevent the disease. Consult a doctor whenever the cervical cancer signs and symptoms are experienced.
Being natural health advocates at Doctors Health Press, I’d suggest natural prevention methods for cervical cancer to help assure your early screening and detection tests come up clean. For starters, it is a good idea to adopt an active lifestyle with a low-glycemic, nutrient-rich, and toxin-free diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts and seeds. You can also reduce the risk of cervical cancer by avoiding excessive amounts of protein in the diet. Ellagic acid is a certain compound found in blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, walnuts, and pecans. Studies show that ellagic acid can induce cervical carcinoma cell death within a 72-hour period.
Curcumin is the bioactive compound in turmeric that also helps prevent and treat cervical cancer. Add the healing herb to your diet for optimal protection against the disease. Other good prevention and treatment herbs for cervical cancer include vitex berries and black cohosh. Herbal remedies can also reduce the risk of cervical cancer, such as boldo leaf, burdock root, artichoke leaf, dandelion root, ginger, yellow dock root, and milk thistle seed.
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