The cervix is the lower end of the womb (uterus) and connects the uterus to the vagina. Most cervical cancers start with changes in the squamous cells on the surface of the cervix.
Cervical cancer is found when doing a routine Pap test. Your OB/GYN will ask you about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Your provider will do a physical exam and a pelvic exam. A biopsy, during which small pieces of tissue are taken from the cervix and checked for cancer cells, is the only way to confirm cancer.
Among the most common risk factors that may put you at risk for cervical cancer are:
- HPV (human papillomavirus) infection
- Sex at a young age or with multiple partners
- Infection with HIV, or a weak immune system
- Long-term use of birth control pills
- Three or more full-term pregnancies
- First full-term pregnancy before age 17
- No regular Pap tests
- Personal or family history of cervical cancer
- Past chlamydia infection
- Excess weight
- Your mother took the medicine DES (diethylstilbestrol) while pregnant with you
Symptoms of cervical cancer
Women with precancerous cells and early cancers on their cervix rarely experience symptoms. Symptoms tend to start when the cancer cells grow and invade the deeper parts of the cervix or other pelvic organs.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as between your periods or after sex
- Unusual vaginal discharge that’s watery or bloody
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the pelvis or low back
Many of these may be caused by other health problems, so it’s important to see your OB/GYN if you have concerns or experience these symptoms.
Marshall Health is proud to partner with you on your journey toward health and wellness. We invite you to check back often as we update this information.