Cervical Cancer Signs: Learn to Identify the Symptoms‎

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What is cervical cancer? 
     
         Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see What Is Cancer?

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).


The cervix has 2 different parts and is covered with two different types of cells.The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix and is covered with glandular cells.The part next to the vagina is the exocervix and is covered in squamous cells.These two cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you get older and if you give birth. 


        Cervical cancer does not typically cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Routine Pap screening is important to check for abnormal cells in the cervix, so they can be monitored and treated as early as possible. Most women are advised to get a Pap test starting at age 21. The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening methods available, and women should have yearly exams by an OB-GYN. However, the Pap test may not detect some cases of abnormal cells in the cervix. The HPV test screens women for the high-risk HPV strains that may lead to cervical tumors. It is approved for women over age 30. 


Although screening methods are not 100% accurate, these tests are often an effective method for detecting cervical cancer in the early stages when it is still highly treatable. Talk with your doctor about which type of cervical cancer screening is right for you.

Early warning signs of cervical cancer
In the early stages, cervical cancers cause no pain or other symptoms. That’s why it’s vital for women to get regular pelvic exams and Pap tests to detect cancer in its earliest stage when it’s treatable.

The first identifiable symptoms of cervical cancer are likely to include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as after intercourse, between menstrual periods, or after menopause; menstrual periods may be heavier and last longer than normal.
Vaginal discharge and odor.
Pelvic pain.
Pain during intercourse.
If cervical cancer has spread to nearby tissues, symptoms may include:
periods may be heavier and last longer than normal.
Vaginal discharge and odor.
Pain during intercourse.
Pelvic pain.
If cervical cancer has spread to nearby tissues, symptoms may include:

When present, common symptoms of a tumor that develops in the cervix may include vaginal bleeding, including bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or post-menopausal bleeding; unusual vaginal discharge, which may be watery, pink or foul-smelling; and pelvic pain.

All of these cervical cancer symptoms should be discussed with your specialist doctor.
Types of cervical cancer
Cervical cancers and cervical pre-cancers are classified by how it look under a microscope. The main types of cervical cancers are adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers develop from cells in the exocervix and the cancer cells have features of squamous cells under the microscope. Squamous cell carcinomas most often begin in the transformation zone.
Most of the other cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are cancers that develop from gland cells. Cervical adenocarcinoma develops from the mucus-producing gland cells of the endocervix. Cervical adenocarcinomas seem to have become more common in the past 20 to 30 years.

Less commonly, cervical cancers have features of both squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. These are called adenosquamous carcinomas or mixed carcinomas.
Although almost all cervical cancers are either squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas, other types of cancer also can develop in the cervix. These other types, such as melanoma, sarcoma, and lymphoma, occur more commonly in other parts of the body.

Only the more common cervical cancer types are covered here, and not the rare types.
What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
As described previously, cervical cancers are caused by infection with one of the high-risk HPV types. However, since not all people who are infected with HPV will develop cancer, it is likely that other factors also play a role in the development of cervical cancer. Certain risk factors have been identified that increase a woman’s risk for developing cervical cancer:

Tobacco smoking
HIV infection
Family history of cervical cancer
Overweight
Long-term use of oral contraceptives (although the risk returns to normal when the contraceptive pills are discontinued)
Having three or more full-term pregnancies
Immune system suppression
Past or current Chlamydia infection
Having a first full-term pregnancy before age 17
Poverty

When to seek specialist doctor
You should contact your GP if you experience:
bleeding outside of your normal periods
new bleeding after the menopause
bleeding after sex (postcoital bleeding)
Vaginal bleeding is very common and can have a wide range of causes, so it does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. However, unusual vaginal bleeding needs to be investigated by your GP.

       Cervical cancer is a cancer arising from the cervix. It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Early on, typically no symptoms are seen. Later symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse.

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