Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix – the entrance to the womb from the vagina – and while there are often no symptoms in the early stages, unusual vaginal bleeding is the most common sign.
It’s important to have regular smear tests to detect abnormal cells on the cervix.
These are offered to all women aged between 25 and 64, every three or five years depending on your age bracket.
If abnormal cells develop into cervical cancer, you might start to see symptoms, from a smelly vaginal discharge to pain when you have sex.
Bupa lists the symptoms that may occur:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding – for example heavy periods, bleeding between periods or after you have sex
Bleeding from your vagina after you’ve been through the menopause
A smelly vaginal discharge
Pain when you have sex
Blood-stains or mucus in your vaginal discharge
Pain in your pelvis or back
If the cancer spreads out of your cervix it can trigger a range of other symptoms.
The NHS lists these as:
- Loss of bladder control
- Bone pain
- Swelling of one of your legs
- Severe pain in your side or back caused by swelling in your kidneys, related to a condition called hydronephrosis
- Changes to your bladder and bowel habits
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Tiredness and a lack of energy
You should contact your GP if you experience:
- Bleeding after sex (postcoital bleeding)
- Bleeding outside of your normal periods
- New bleeding after the menopause
The NHS adds: “Vaginal bleeding is very common and can have a wide range of causes, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer.
“However, unusual vaginal bleeding is a symptom that needs to be investigated by your GP.”
All women who are registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening as part of the NHS Cervical Screening programme.
From bloating to bleeding, these are the five gynaecological cancers you should know.