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Cervical Cancer Symptoms

Cervical Cancer Symptoms Women Need to Know


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

In the early stages of cervical cancer, women do not usually experience any symptoms. For many women, a cervical cancer diagnosis comes as a surprise because of the absence of noticeable symptoms. In many cases, cervical cancer is diagnosed after an abnormal Pap smear, not after seeking medical attention because of a persistent symptom. Having a regular Pap smear is critical your cervical health!

You may be experiencing cervical cancer symptoms and not even realize it. It's not uncommon for women to brush off symptoms like pelvic pain as PMS or caused by ovulation. Some women falsely assume vaginal bleeding after sex is normal, and it is not. If you are experiencing anything unusual, it's important to see your family doctor or gynecologist.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: If you experience heavy periods or mild to severe spotting between periods, you should see your OB/GYN to determine the cause. Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be caused by many conditions and diseases, including cervical cancer. Bleeding after sex, douching, or after pelvic exams can also be considered abnormal.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge: Every woman experiences some degree of normal vaginal discharge, but its important to know the difference between a normal and abnormal discharge. A normal discharge can be yellow, clear, and even a cloudy white color and does not have a foul smell. Abnormal vaginal discharge may be foul smelling, watery, thick, and/or contain mucus. If you experience an unusual vaginal discharge (including an increase in discharge), it is critical to see your doctor, even if you do not have any other symptoms.
  • Pelvic pain: Most women experience a degree of pelvic discomfort or pain before or during their period, however, when it occurs frequently, it should be evaluated by a doctor. Women with cervical cancer have described pelvic pain as a mild to severe dull ache (cramping) and/or sharp pains that can last for hours. Like other cervical cancer symptoms, pelvic pain is a vague symptoms and is associated to many other diseases and conditions.
  • Pain during urination: Bladder pain or pain during urination can be a symptom of advanced cervical cancer. This cervical cancer symptom usually occurs when cancer has spread to the bladder. In most cases, pain during urination is likely related to a less serious condition, like a urinary tract infection.
  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia): Pain during sex can be a late-onset symptom of cervical cancer.
Please keep in mind that these cervical cancer symptoms are also symptoms of many other illnesses. If you are experiencing these cervical cancer symptoms, please see a doctor. Do not wait for symptoms to improve or go away on their own. Your doctor will most likely do a pelvic exam and a possibly a Pap smear. Depending on your health history, your doctor may recommend you have imaging tests, like a pelvic ultrasound.


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