Cervical cancer development usually takes very slow and it begins as dysplasia, a precancerous condition. It may take several years for the changes to become cervical cancer. Usually there are no noticeable signs of cervical cancer early until the malignant cells have invaded nearby tissues are presented.
However, this condition can be detected early by a test of vaginal Papanicolaou (Pap test) and is 100% treatable. or they have not been followed up on abnormal results in these. Women should have yearly exams, including a Pap smear to detect abnormal cells in the cervix. Finding this cancer early will get the prognosis better. Unfortunately, in most cases, women diagnosed today with cervical cancer have not received Pap test regularly.
As the tumor grows in size, it can produce a variety of symptoms including:
- Menstruation with stronger and more prolonged bleeding.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge (may have bad smell) and that continues.
- Irregular vaginal spotting or bleeding that occurs after having sex, or between periods or after menopause.
- Pelvic or back pain
- Painful urination
Many of these symptoms are not specific to cervical cancer and could be present in other conditions. However, it is important to go immediately to your gynecologist if you have any of them.
This cancer can invade other organs such as bladder, intestines, even up to the liver and the lungs. Often, women do not experience serious problems until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. The symptoms that may occur at an advanced stage are:
- Back pain
- Fractures or bone pain
- Extreme tiredness
- Recto-vaginal fistula
- A decreased appetite
- Pelvic pain
- Swelling in one leg
- Unexplained weight loss
To detect (find) and diagnose cervical cancer, your doctor will use tests that examine the cervix.
- Pap test: procedure to collect cells from the surface of the cervix and vagina to be checked under a microscope to look for abnormalities. This procedure is also called Pap smear.
- Test of uman papillomavirus (HPV): laboratory test used to analyze the DNA (genetic material) to determine whether there are certain types of HPV. This test is also called DNA testing for HPV.
- Colposcopy : procedure by which a speculum called a colposcope (an instrument, magnifying light that is inserted into the vagina) is used so that the doctor can determine whether abnormal areas in the vagina or cervix.
- Biopsy: If abnormal cells are found in a Pap test, your doctor will probably do a biopsy of cervical tissue for a pathologist to observe under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
- Pelvic exam: examination during which the doctor makes use of one or two fingers, gloved and lubricated, inserted into the vagina, while the other hand exerts a slight pressure on the abdomen to feel the size, shape and position of the uterus and ovaries. A colposcope is also inserted into the vagina and the doctor looks at the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. Usually it will use this time to take a sample of tissue from the cervix (Pap smear).
- CT, MRI or ultrasound: to check how far the cancer has grown.