Cervical cancer is tricky, many of the symptoms can be mentally explained away. Many of the symptoms can be caused by other, far less serious, issues. You need to know your body and be your own healthcare advocate. Now it is time to learn what symptoms and signs to be on the lookout for:
- Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding - this can be bleeding which occurs between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause. You should never ignore abnormal bleeding. This is the number one thing I wish I had known. The only notable symptom I had when diagnosed originally was bleeding with intercourse.
- Unusual Vaginal Discharge - this is a "know your body" symptom. Vaginal discharge could be a result of a variety of concerns and significant changes in discharge need to be checked out by your doctor. Changes to watch for: foul smell, increase in frequency, and/or change in color of discharge.
- Discomfort with Urination - discomfort with urination can be attributed to a urinary tract infection, however, it is important not to ignore this sign. If you are having discomfort with urination you should see your doctor. If this symptom is related to cervical cancer, it typically means the cancer has spread to the bladder. This is not a symptom to dismissively think "well, it must be a UTI." Trust me, your doctor is going to do a UTI test before jumping to conclusions. It is better to be safe and contact your doctor than sorry that you ignored this symptom. This is the symptom which diagnosed my cervical cancer the second time, I went through several cycles of medical intervention for UTI before ultimately being referred to the urologist who diagnosed my cervical cancer recurrence.
- Decreased Bladder Control - a change in bladder control can be a sign of cervical cancer. If you notice that you are unable to control your bladder it is important to contact your doctor.
- Pain with Intercourse - pain during intercourse can be a late symptom indicative of cervical cancer; know your body and what is normal. If you begin to have abnormally painful intercourse, call your doctor.
- Increase in Menstrual Cycles - heavier or longer menstrual cycles can be another sign of cervical cancer, it is important to note your typical cycle and contact your doctor if there are any drastic changes.
- Back and/or Pelvic Pain - pain in the back and/or pelvis specifically are areas of concern related to cervical cancer. Pain should be noted and tracked, if it continues to increase and/or be persistent you should contact your doctor.
- Leg Pain - leg pain and/or swelling is another symptom which can be attributed to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can often cause swelling of the legs due to the spread of cancer. As the cancer spreads it can block off blood flow to the legs.
- Constant Fatigue - constant fatigue is concerning, especially in conjunction with other symptoms this is a concern. Cervical cancer will be causing your body to work in overdrive to try and fight it off. You may notice yourself with increased fatigue.
- Unexplained Weight Loss - unexplained weight loss, though sometimes welcome, is something which should be discussed with your doctor. The unexplained weight loss can be attributed to cervical cancer.
Taking a look at this list of symptoms, I think it is important to note, it is really important for you to know and understand what is normal for you. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other far less serious concerns, however you won't know without seeing your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be mentally explained away, however, they can be life threatening if ignored. If you have changes happening in your body, they are happening for a reason. You can, and should, be your own health advocate.
I believe each woman needs to listen to her body and always be strong. Don’t miss your OB-GYN wellness check-ups! If you are having symptoms, it might be scary. However, the outcome will be much scarier if you don't address your concerns! If something seems abnormal to you, it probably is. If you doctor won't listen, seek a second opinion. It is your life; be strong, persistent, and don’t give up.