Women are encouraged to watch for the most common symptoms of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer, with about 3,200 new cases each year, while one in 142 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime
While cervical cancer can often be symptomless, there are some signs that experts say should never be ignored
From painful sex to fatigue and unexplained weight loss, read on to learn about the possible signs of cervical cancer and how catching it early could save your life
Women may be ignoring some of the possible key symptoms of cervical cancer because they are unaware of what to look out for, a leading health expert warned.
Research from Cancer Research UK has found that there are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK each year, that’s almost nine a day.
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer, with about 3,200 new cases each year, while one in 142 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, however, too few women are aware of the signs of cervical cancer, and only 69.9% of eligible women aged 25-64 took up the free cervical screening offer in 2021-22.
Read more: 12 things people would like to know about Pap smears
With this week kicking off Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Yahoo UK spoke to Valentina Milanova, founder of women’s health research and development company Daye, to shed light on the five common gynecologic cancer symptoms we’re all on have to pay attention.
While cervical cancer can often be symptomless, which is why it’s so important to attend regular cervical exams so your doctor can check for precancerous lesions, there are some symptoms you should never ignore.
“One of the hardest things about cervical cancer is that it often shows no symptoms in its early stages,” explains Milanova. “It’s only at an advanced stage that symptoms start to show. That’s why it’s incredibly important that all women and assigned women at birth (AFAB) attend their regular cervical screenings (also known as Pap smears).
“Cervical screening is one way to prevent cervical cancer because it tests for HPV, which causes most cases of cervical cancer.
“If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor or your local sexual health clinic to investigate further.”
Read more: Why it’s time to reboot Jade Goody’s cervical smear legacy
From unexpected vaginal bleeding to painful sex, Milanova believes that if more women recognized these symptoms, they could be diagnosed and treated sooner.
The important thing here is that the vaginal bleeding is unusual for you, including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods, or after menopause.
“Bleeding or spotting after a pelvic exam or heavier periods than usual can also be symptoms of gynecologic cancers, such as cervical cancer,” explains Milanova.
Unusual vaginal discharge
Women should watch for changes in the consistency, smell, and amount of vaginal discharge, including thicker discharge, discharge with an unpleasant odor, and more discharge or discharge that is a different color than normal.
“Pink or reddish discharge is an indication of bleeding and should be discussed with your doctor,” explains Milanova.
Watch: Woman who couldn’t carry a child after cervical cancer becomes a mother – after her friend was her surrogate mother
Pain during sex, including experiencing irritation in and around the vagina and vulva, is another possible sign that women should not ignore.
Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower abdomen, especially if it persists, is also something women should watch out for.
Read more: ‘We never thought it would happen’: After cervical cancer, mom welcomes baby girl
Tiredness, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
According to Milanova, cervical tumors produce small proteins called cytokines. Some of these proteins can suppress your appetite and cause changes in your metabolism, breaking down fat faster than normal.
While many of these symptoms could be due to a number of less serious reasons, it is very important to get checked.
If you have another condition, such as fibroids or endometriosis, you may experience such symptoms on a regular basis.
You may find yourself getting used to it. But the NHS says it’s important to get checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse or don’t feel normal to you.