Death from cervical cancer has been on the decline in the United States since the 1940s due to the development of the Pap test. In fact, death from cervical cancer has decreased by 50%. That’s the good news. The bad news is that 4,000 women still die from the disease each year in the United States. That’s why you should be on the lookout for these 10 signs of cervical cancer.
While the most common ages for diagnosis of cervical cancer tend to be around someone’s 40s and 50s, over 15% of women who develop the disease will do so over the age of 65. This means you can’t assume you no longer have to worry about it just because you have gone through menopause.
Not all signs of cervical cancer are obvious. That’s why you should let your doctor know if you have any obvious signs as well as less-obvious signs of the disease. Some of these signs include:
- Bowel movement changes—If you notice that you need to urinate often or have changes in your bowel movements and these symptoms seem to stick around or start to become worse over time, you’ll want to have it checked out.
- Being tired all the time—Of course, there are many reasons that you can feel tired, but if you have additional symptoms and you feel tired all the time, check with your doctor.
- Pelvic pain—While it is normal to have some cramping at the beginning of your menstrual cycle, if you find you have unusual cramping or pain around the cervix that continues to get worse, it could be a sign of something more serious.
- Pain during sex—This is especially true before menopause. After menopause, dryness can also cause pain.
- Unusual vaginal discharge—There are many reasons you can have a strange discharge, but if you find you have a discharge that is watery or smells bad, it is best to have it checked out.
- Abnormal bleeding—This is bleeding after sex or between periods. This is often the first sign of cervical cancer.
- Change in menstrual cycles—If you find you are having periods that are heavier than normal or last longer, then this might be an issue.
- Bleeding between periods—This can be a sign of pre-cancer cells.
- Bleeding after sex—This goes together with having pain during sex.
- Bleeding after menopause—If you have gone through menopause and you find that you are starting to bleed again, you need to have it checked out by your doctor.
Because of the risk of cervical cancer, some women wonder, “Can the cervix be removed?” The answer is yes. In a normal hysterectomy, both the uterus and cervix are removed. If you have a normal cervix and a normal pap smear, this is not typically necessary. It is important to keep in mind that with a partial hysterectomy, part of the cervix is left intact, so while it is unlikely, it is possible for there to be a cervical cancer recurrence after hysterectomy.
The good news is that with early detection, a small-cell cervical cancer prognosis is good. Just be sure to have regular Pap tests and report any symptoms to your doctor right away.