Cervical Cancer; What You Must Know
One very important step that women can take toward the prevention of cervical cancer is receiving regular gynecological exams and getting Pap tests.
What is the cervix?
The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). The uterus has 2 parts — the upper part (body) where a baby grows, and the lower part (cervix). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer, or cancer of the cervix, begins on the surface of the cervix. There are 2 main types of cancer of the cervix — squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. About 80% to 90% are squamous cell carcinomas, while 10%-20% are adenocarcinomas.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Early stages of cervical cancer do not involve pain or other symptoms. The first identifiable symptoms of the disease are likely to include:
- Watery or bloody vaginal discharge which may be heavy and can have a foul odor.
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse or exercise, between menstrual periods, or after menopause.
- Menstrual periods that may be heavier and last longer than normal.
If the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, symptoms may include:
- Difficult or painful urination, sometimes with blood in urine.
- Diarrhea, or pain or bleeding from the rectum upon defecation.
- Fatigue, loss of weight and appetite.
- A general feeling of illness.
- Dull backache or swelling in the legs.
If abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharge, or any other symptoms last more than 2 weeks without explanation, you should have a complete gynecological examination that includes a Pap smear.