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5 Sneaky Signs of Cervical Cancer

January 10, 2024 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Hands holding ribbon for cervical cancer awareness

Unseen and often underestimated, cervical cancer can silently impact lives in unexpected ways.

Cervical cancer, a disease of the female reproductive system, affects women of every race, socioeconomic status, education level, place of birth and residence. Despite it being a preventable cancer, Alabama routinely has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality – significantly worse than the United States.

Women are also more likely to die in Alabama from cervical cancer than most other states in the nation. To tackle this crisis, HH Health proudly supports Operation Wipe Out, an Alabama Department of Public Health campaign to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health threat in the state by 2033.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Whether you’re reading this during the monthlong health observance or at any time of the year, it’s important to be aware of the sneaky ways this gynecologic disease can affect you or the women in your life.

Stay informed and empowered by learning about these five cervical cancer symptoms:

Unexplained bleeding

One of the earliest signs of cervical cancer is unusual bleeding. This can include:

  1. Bleeding between menstrual periods or after intercourse
  2. Periods that are heavier and longer than usual
  3. Postmenopausal bleeding

    While consistent abnormal bleeding doesn’t always mean you have cervical cancer, you should see a health care provider as soon as possible to rule out any concerns.

    Pelvic pain or discomfort

    Persistent, difficult-to-manage pelvic pain or discomfort can be an early indicator of cervical cancer. This can be anything from a dull ache to a sharp pain in the pelvis, most often during intercourse.

    Cervical cancer can also cause painful urination or lower back pain, so pay attention to any unusual symptoms and report them to your doctor.

    Unusual discharge

    Changes in the color, smell or consistency of discharge may be a sign that you need an evaluation, especially if they don’t go away easily. This includes discharge that is watery, foul-smelling or tinged with blood.

    Trouble going to the bathroom

    Women with cervical cancer may experience difficult or painful bowel movements or rectal bleeding due to pressure on the cervix. This can also sometimes result in constipation or abdominal bloating.

    Exam abnormalities

    Regular pelvic exams and Pap smears are critical for early detection of cervical cancer. If your health care provider observes any abnormalities during these screenings, such as cervical changes or precancerous cells, additional tests may be needed.

    Being aware of these cervical cancer signs helps women to prioritize their reproductive health. Open communication with your health care provider also plays a vital role in detecting the disease early when it is most treatable.

    Looking to reduce your cervical cancer risk? Fortunately, there are things you can do now to lower your chances of having the disease, such as:

    • Getting the HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that cause over 90% of all cervical cancers as well as numerous other cancers and diseases. Ask your health care team if the HPV vaccine is right for you.

    • Attending routine Pap tests to detect abnormal cells and other conditions of the cervix.

    • Using protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

    • Saying no to smoking, which can increase your chances of getting cervical cancer.

    If you have any symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with a doctor or other medical professional via the HH Health location finder, which offers care options throughout north Alabama and southern Tennessee.

    Remember, early detection saves lives!