Cervical cancer was one of the leading cancer death for women in the United States, but now it is considered the easiest female cancer to prevent.
The reasons for this are the HPV vaccines, more advanced screening methods, and regular testing for HPV, which is the virus that causes this type of cancer. By knowing the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, a person can detect it in the early stage and have a quicker treatment.
The narrow lower portion of the uterus which opens into the women’s vagina is called the cervix. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, which is a common sexually transmitted infection. According to one study, it was estimated that about 6 million Americans have this virus, but many of them never experience any signs because their immune system destroys the virus.
However, some strains of this virus may infect cells and cause problems such as cancer or genital warts. In order to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts, it is recommended that each girl age 9 to 26 gets vaccination against HPV. It is only effective if it is given to women before they become sexually active. One such vaccine is Gardasil, which protects against the two most common high-risk types of HPV.
In case a woman didn’t get a vaccine after age 26, pap tests are the key means in order to prevent cervical cancer. It is very important to know the symptoms since HPV is the precursor to cervical cancer. Even if a person doesn’t have physical symptoms, HPV can be transmitted to another person because it is a virus. Also, not all strains of the virus produce symptoms that are visible.
Some strains, such as 6 and 11, form small, bumps around the genitals which can form in clusters that look like cauliflower. These bumps are usually itchy, but bigger bumps can have bleeding during sex or discharge. During its early stages, just like other cancers, cervical cancer rarely shows signs. Usually, symptoms only become apparent when the cancer cells grow through the cervical tissue’s top layer into the tissue below it, which is known as invasive cervical cancer.
However, there are some warning signs which are sometimes mistaken with menstrual problems. Irregular bleeding is the most common sign of cervical cancer. The bleeding can occur after sex or between menstrual periods. Sometimes, the irregular vaginal bleeding shows as slight blood-streaked vaginal discharge, which usually gets dismissed as regular spotting. In addition, menstrual bleeding can last longer and be heavier.
Postmenopausal women, who no longer have menstrual periods, can also experience vaginal bleeding. There are other types of vaginal discharge, along with bleeding, which are common early signs of cervical cancer. It’s usually continuous because of the nature of the infection. Some of the characteristics of the discharge are tinged with blood, foul-smelling, brown, watery, and pale.
Discharge and bleeding may be early signs of cervical cancer, but during the later stages, more intense symptoms will arise. Advanced symptoms of cervical cancer are weight loss, fatigue, swelling of one or both legs, difficulty urinating, and back or pelvic pain.