It’s not until the cancer grows into nearby tissues that symptoms begin to show, says Gynecologic Oncologist Yvonne C. Collins, M.D. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away. While their cause might not be cancer, it’s important to have them checked out.
Unusual Vaginal Discharge
The cervix is shaped like a doughnut, and often cancer grows inside the opening. When this happens, the cells around the opening of the cervix will slough off, producing profuse watery discharge.
Vaginal Bleeding or Pain
Cervical cancer can also grow around the perimeter of the cervix, causing the edges to become dry and cracked, like chapped lips. That means any disturbance, from having sex to walking, can tear open the cracks and cause bleeding. And that’s not comfortable.
Additional symptoms may occur. They are pretty hard to miss:
Symptomatic abnormal vaginal bleeding can reduce the number of red blood cells and the amount of oxygen in the body, producing extreme fatigue.
Ongoing Pelvic, Leg, or Back Pain
Cervical cancer can cause the cervix to swell until it pushes against neighboring blood vessels. The cervix can then block blood flow from the bottom of the legs to the rest of the body, causing pain and, often, “cankles.”
Cervical cancer can lead to a blockage of the kidneys and the muscles that propel urine to the bladder, making it difficult to urinate.
Bleeding from the Rectum or Bladder
When the cervix swells a lot, it can crowd the nearby bladder and rectum, creating small fistulas, or tears, in the tissues.
Cancer—no matter what type—suppresses appetite. Plus, in advanced stages of cervical cancer, the cervix can swell to press against the stomach, limiting the space available for food. All can result in extreme or sudden weight loss.