Cervical Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Cervical cancer is a sometimes preventable type of cancer that affects many women worldwide. The cancer starts in the cervix, the hollow passage that connects the vagina to the uterus. In most cases, the condition is caused by an infection with human papillomavirus [1] (HPV).

HPV is a virus that typically stays dormant in the body for a long time. The immune system usually arrests the development of the virus and prevents it from causing harm to the body. Sometimes this virus remains active in the body and contributes to the development of several types of cancers, including cervical cancer in women.

Fortunately, there are vaccines available against this virus. The vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix can be used to prevent an infection with this virus. Both work best if given before a person becomes sexually active.

Women with early cervical cancers or pre-cancers do not experience any symptoms. This why doctors often advise women to begin getting Pap smears from age 21 so it can be caught on time when it is still very treatable. According to the US Preventive Services Task Force [2] (USPSTF), women aged 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years. If you are between 30 and 65, you should get a Pap test every three years and a high-risk HPV (hrHPV) test every five years.

In many people, cervical cancer cells proliferate unannounced until the cancer has progressed significantly. This is usually when symptoms begin to appear. Even when the symptoms start, many women who are unaware of them do not know what to suspect and may not seek medical care on time. This article discusses the most common signs that a person has cervical cancer.

Trouble urinating or initiating a bowel movement

Actions such as urinating and defecating can become extra hard for women with cervical cancer. Women may experience diarrhea, pain, or bleeding from the rectum after a bowel movement. This usually happens because the cancer has spread into nearby tissues and organs, interfering with their normal function. In extreme cases, urine and feces may leak into the vagina [3].