10 Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

By jolene
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Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that originates from the cervix. In more than 90 percent of cases, it is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. However, it is important to also note that there are those who have acquired HPV infections without developing cervical cancer. Risk factors of cervical cancer include smoking, use of birth control pills, weak immune system, having many sexual partners, and starting sex at a young age. Cervical cancer usually occurs from precancerous changes. Approximately 90 percent of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinomas with 10 percent of adenocarcinomas and a small percentage consists of rarer types. The diagnosis of cervical cancer can be achieved via a cervical screening and biopsy. Medical imaging is used to determine if the cancer has spread.

Prevention includes HPV vaccines that have been shown to protect individuals against two to seven strains of high-risk HPV that cause cervical cancers. Experts believe that these vaccines can help prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancers. Since the risk of cancer still exists, women are recommended to go through a pap smear test which helps to detect precancerous changes, allowing patients to receive treatment at early stages of the disease. The treatment of cervical cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. In the United States, the five-year survival rate is at 68 percent. Globally, it is the fourth commonest cancer resulting in death among women. In 2012, it has been estimated that there are 528,000 cases that resulted in 266,000 deaths. Approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers are seen in developing countries. This may be due to the cervical screening programs that increases awareness among women in developed countries.

Symptom #1: Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Abnormal vaginal bleeding refers to bleeding between menstrual periods or after sex. It can present as blood streaked discharge which is often dismissed as spotting. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the commonest symptom of cervical cancer.

It can also occur in postmenopausal women and should never be dismissed as normal as it could be a symptom of cervical cancer or other serious issues. Women with abnormal vaginal bleeding should seek medical attention to rule out serious conditions.

Cervical Cancer

Symptom #2: Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain refers to pain that is present anywhere in the pelvis. In cervical cancer, it may be an indicator that there are changes to the pelvis. Severe cases may also spread to the surrounding structures such as the bladder, intestines, liver, lungs, and more. Even more advanced cases may have pain in the back and leg which may mean that the cancer has metastasized to the bones.

Pain in cancer can be managed with pain killers. Once the bones are affected, care should be taken for patients to avoid falls and injuries as it can easily result in fractures as the bones are weakened.

Symptom #3: Dyspareunia

Dyspareunia is a medical term that refers to painful sexual intercourse which can be felt on the external surface or deeper parts of the genitalia. There are various psychological, physical, relationship, and social causes that can contribute to dyspareunia. Pain during intercourse is one of the hallmarks of cervical cancer.

Dyspareunia can also be seen in infections. Women who experience these symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible as ignoring the symptoms allows the cancer to advance and lowering the chances of a good prognosis.

Cervical Cancer

Symptom #4: Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite or anorexia can be both harmless or serious. Appetite loss during an infection is believed to be part of the acute phase response. It may be triggered by components of foreign pathogens such as peptidoglycans or lipopolysaccharides of bacterial cell walls, double stranded DNA, viral glycoproteins, and bacterial DNA resulting in the production of proinflammatory cytokines.

It can be seen in many conditions such as anxiety, pneumonia, celiac disease, cancer, chronic pain, dementia, hypothyroidism, and more. Prolonged loss of appetite can result in weight loss.

Symptom #5: Weight Loss

Weight loss occurs when there is a decrease in total body mass due to loss of bone mineral deposits, muscle, fluids, adipose tissue, and other connective tissue. Weight loss can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional weight loss occurs when one loses weight in an attempt to improve their health or physical looks.

In an unintentional weight loss, it can occur due to four mechanisms: impaired intake of food, impaired absorption or digestion of nutrients, excessive nutrient loss, and altered metabolic requirements. In cervical cancer, weight loss can occur because of cachexia.

Cervical Cancer

Symptom #6: Fatigue

Fatigue is a gradual feeling of tiredness which can be alleviated by rest. There are physical and mental causes of fatigue. In physical fatigue, there is transient inability to maintain peak physical performance.

Mental fatigue occurs when there is reduced ability to achieve maximal cognitive performance due to prolonged cognitive activity. Fatigue can manifest as lethargy or somnolence.

Symptom #7: Vaginal Discharge

Some amount of vaginal discharge is often normal. However, those who experience abnormal bleeding should keep an eye out for unusual vaginal discharge. The discharge can be clear, white, watery, brown, or tinged with blood.

The vaginal discharge in cervical cancer cases have been described to be watery and bloody with a foul odor. When this occurs, women should seek medical attention to ensure they receive proper treatment and management.

Cervical Cancer

Symptom #8: Urinary Symptoms

Some of the urinary symptoms seen in cervical cancer include difficulty urinating, pain, and blood in the urine. Blockage of the kidneys may occur from cervical cancer. There may be increased urges to urinate, dribbling, incontinence, and leakage of urine or feces from the vagina.

Cervical cancer can also cause issues with defecation as nerves and structures adjacent to the cervix are affected. Urinary symptoms are usually seen in more advanced cases as it signifies that the growth may have invaded the surrounding structures.

Symptom #9: General Feeling of Illness

A general feeling of illness or malaise is often one of the first indications that there is disease or infection. It is a non-specific symptom that can be seen in various conditions such as hypoglycemia, cancer, heart attack, stroke, fever, dehydration, and more.

Patients often express it as “not feeling right”. It is believed to be due to the activation of an immune response and the release of proinflammatory cytokines.

Symptom #10: Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea is described as an unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling where there is an urge to vomit. It can be a debilitating symptom as it can cause discomfort in the chest and throat. Vomiting refers to the involuntary expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth and nose. In cervical cancer, nausea and vomiting may occur because of swelling into the abdominal cavity which increases intra abdominal pressure.

The compression on the stomach and gastrointestinal tract can also cause acid reflux. However, since nausea and vomiting are common and non-specific symptoms, it may be dismissed as a symptom of other conditions such as infections or food poisoning.

Cervical Cancer

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