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Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer


Elizabeth Howell, MD, is an obstetrician/gynecologist with McKee Center for Women’s Health.

Question: What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?

Answer: Cervical cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer for women, affecting about 16 out of 100,000 women annually worldwide. It is the cause of death for about nine women in 100,000. Among gynecological cancers, cervical cancer follows endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer in rate of incidence.

Often cervical cancer has no symptoms in its early stages. Only after the cancer has developed into a later stage will a woman experience symptoms, and even then, those signs can be mistaken for other common problems such as PMS or pain with ovulation.

Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that opens at the top of the vagina.  The function of the cervix is to allow for the passage of a baby from the uterus to the vagina during childbirth.

There are several cervical cancer risk factors including giving birth to multiple children, having many sexual partners, having sexual intercourse for the first time at a young age, smoking, using oral contraceptives or having a weakened immune system. Having contracted HPV – the human papillomavirus – is a significant risk factor.

Symptoms of cervical cancer can include:

  • Continuous vaginal discharge.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause.
  • Periods that become heavier and last longer than normal.

Advanced symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Leg pain
  • Heavy bleeding from the vagina
  • Leaking urine or feces from the vagina
  • Single swollen leg
  •  Bone fractures.

You should consult your personal health care provider regarding symptoms or questions you might have.

Page Last Modified: 02/22/2010
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