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Cervical Cancer Signs, Symptoms and Types

Cervical cancer often can be found early and even prevented by having regular Pap tests. And, if detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we’re here to support you at any stage of your health care journey. If you have questions about symptoms you’re experiencing, a Banner MD Anderson specialist can help.

What Are Common Signs of Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer in its early stages usually doesn’t have any signs or symptoms. The development of cervical cancer is very slow. If untreated, it can spread (metastasize) to the bladder, intestines, lymph nodes, bones, lungs and liver in later stages.

Early warning signs of cervical cancer:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (after menopause, spotting between menstrual periods, or excessively heavy periods)
  • Unusual vaginal discharge (watery, pink, or foul-smelling)
  • Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Pain during sex

Signs of advanced cervical cancer:

  • Pelvic pain and back pain – while low back pain can be linked to issues with reproductive organs like the cervix, pelvic pain can be a potential sign of cervical cancer
  • Leg swelling and leg pain – as a tumor grows, it may press against nerves in the pelvic wall, causing leg pain and swelling
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Leakage of urine or feces from the vagina
  • Bone fractures
  • Urinating more often
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • History of untreated dysplasia (precancerous cells changes) of the cervix

What Are the Symptoms of HPV?

HPV is not a symptom of cervical cancer, but it can cause cervical cancer. Make sure to tell your doctor if you have HPV or have never been screened for HPV. Most people with HPV don’t have any symptoms or health problems.

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms it does not always mean you have cervical cancer. However, it is important to discuss any signs with your doctor as they may signal other health problems.

What Are the Different Types of Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is categorized based on the type of cell where it develops.  The most common types of cervical cancer are:

Squamous cell carcinoma (cancer): This type of cervical cancer is most common and is found in 80% - 90% of patients. It develops in the lining of the cervix.

Adenocarcinoma: This type of cervical cancer develops in the gland cells that produce cervical mucus. Approximately 10% - 20% of cervical cancers are defined by this type.

Mixed carcinoma: On occasion, both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are found in cervical cancer.

In some rare cases, other types of cancer can be found in the cervix such as melanoma, sarcoma and lymphoma.

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