Cervical cancer can affect women of all ages. The following factors increase the risk of a woman developing cervical cancer:
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Diets low in fruits and vegetables or undernourishment
Many full-term pregnancies or a first pregnancy at an early age
Female relative(s) with cervical cancer
Mother who took the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding, but there is a gradual change from a normal cervix to a cancerous cervix. Because cervical cancers do not appear suddenly, yearly pelvic exams and Pap tests are necessary to help detect the disease in its earliest stages. According to the American Cancer Society, an annual Pap test is the most effective way to detect changes in the cervix and the best way to prevent cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, precancerous changes of the cervix usually do not cause pain. In fact, they generally do not cause any symptoms and are not detected unless a woman has a pelvic exam and Pap test.
Symptoms usually do not appear until abnormal cervical cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue. When this occurs, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding.
Bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods, or it may occur after sexual intercourse, douching or a pelvic exam
Menstrual bleeding may last longer and be heavier than usual
Bleeding after menopause may be a symptom of cervical cancer
Increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling and unexplained weight loss may also be symptoms