When diagnosed early, cervical cancer can be successfully treated and often cured. Therefore, in addition to having regular Pap tests performed for screening purposes, a woman should learn to recognize possible warning signs so that she can bring them to the attention of a physician.
Most of the symptoms of cervical cancer are common and not a cause for alarm. Oftentimes, they are associated with other conditions, such as infections, which are less serious than cancer but may still require treatment. The only way to find out for certain what is causing the symptoms – and ensure that the underlying issue is treated appropriately – is to promptly see a physician.
The most common warning sign of cervical cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge. In a recent study, many women reported that they would be concerned about this symptom, recognizing it as a warning sign of “something potentially serious.” Pain or pressure in the pelvic area is another symptom of cervical cancer that many women said would prompt them to seek medical attention. Even so, most of these women did not associate this symptom with cancer.
There are five other important warning signs of cervical cancer that very few women recognize as possible cancer symptoms. Those warning signs are:
- Itching or burning sensations in the vagina
- Low back or abdominal pain
- Unexplained fatigue
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Abdominal bloating
Most likely, these signs often don’t register as something important simply because they are so common. For instance, many women experience abdominal bloating caused by hormonal fluctuations during their menstrual cycles. Post-menopausal women often report that they feel a need to urinate more frequently than they did when they were younger. And, most people juggle multiple responsibilities that leave them feeling extremely tired from time to time.
For these reasons, the key to the early detection of cervical cancer is for each woman to become familiar with her own body and aware of what is normal for her. In general, vaginal bleeding is unusual if it occurs between menstrual periods or after menopause. Therefore, a woman should pay close attention to the timing, duration and heaviness of her menstrual periods, and whether she experiences back or abdominal pain on a regular basis.
Finally, it might be tempting to search the Internet for information about cervical cancer symptoms, but it’s important to proceed with caution and be aware that there is a lot of misinformation out there. If something unusual occurs, the best approach is to see a trusted and qualified medical professional who can provide individualized advice and guidance.
If you would like to discuss possible cervical cancer symptoms with a gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, you do not need to request a referral from your physician. To get started, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.