Last week, Better2Know discussed the importance of cervical screening and the under 25s smear test debate. Attending your smear test appointment is vital to protecting your cervical health. Especially since, cervical cancer symptoms in the early stages are usually non-existent and the infection is often found, and treated, as a result of cervical screening.

I never had any symptoms for cervical cancer, and so didn’t feel I needed to go to the doctor. Samme Allen, Kingston

Returning for her smear test 10 years after her first, Ms Allen was diagnosed with cervical cancer once it was brought to her attention at a routine health check that she was overdue for her cervical screen. This is why it is important to always accept your invite for a smear test.

However, that does not mean that you should wait until your next cervical screen if you are experiencing any warning signs of cervical cancer. It is important for you to be aware of the early signs of cervical cancer. This is because the earlier any problem is detected, the earlier you can start treatment and the better chance of prevention or cure.

Symptoms are one of your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If it doesn’t feel right or look right and doesn’t go away in a day or two then you should do something about it and ask your doctor. You can read about some of the more common symptoms of cancer here. Anthea Morris, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Early signs of cervical cancer

Unusual bleeding is often the first noticeable sign of cervical cancer. This includes bleeding in between periods, bleeding during or after sex, and bleeding after you have reached menopause. Other signs can also include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Unpleasant vaginal discharge
  • Leg pain
  • Lower back or pelvic pain
  • Regular urine infections (UTIs)

You should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any signs of abnormal bleeding such as bleeding after sex, bleeding when you are not on your period and bleeding after menopause.

Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer

Signs of cervical cancer may not appear until the advanced stages. Once you have reached this stage of disease, you may suffer from:

  • Blood in urine
  • Severe vaginal bleeding
  • Pain in lower back or pelvis
  • Constipation
  • Excessive pain in side or back
  • Urinating or passing bowel movements more regularly
  • Swelling of legs

The advanced stages of cervical cancer are where the disease has spread to other parts of the body. The most common areas for the cancer to spread to are:

  • Lymph nodes
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Bones

There are lymph nodes throughout your body, including in between your hip and pelvis. If the cancer has spread to this region of your body, you will usually find that the area feels hard. The cancer cells may also stop the lymph fluid from draining, causing the fluid to build up and result in swelling.

Your liver is an important organ that carries out many functions, including the removal of toxins. If the cancer has reached your liver, you can suffer from nausea, itching, pain on the right side of your abdomen, swelling of your abdomen, jaundice, weight loss and poor appetite.

Once the cancer has spread to your lungs, you may find that you are breathless, have recurrent chest infections, are coughing up blood or have a cough that does not go away. A build-up of fluid can also develop between your lung and your chest wall.

Bone pain is the biggest sign that the cancer has spread to your bones. The pain is usually a dull ache, or a stabbing pain that is there most of the time and wakes you up at night.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms is an important part of cancer care and treatment. You are not alone if you are diagnosed, there is a vast amount of support for you. Fear and worry for your results may prevent you from finding out your status, but early treatment can help prevent the condition from spreading or causing irreversible damage.

Sources

[1] BBC: Cervical screening: Millions missing smear tests

[2] Cancer.net: Cervical Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

[3] British Liver Trust: Liver Health

[4] Cancer Research UK: Symptoms of advanced cancer

[5] Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: Symptoms of cervical cancer

[6] Healthy women: 9 Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore

[7] Macmillan Cancer Support: Symptoms of cervical cancer

[8] NHS: Cervical Cancer Symptoms

[9] Unity Point: Don’t Ignore These Cervical Cancer Warning Signs




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