Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
At an earlier stage, cervical cancer rarely has any signs or symptoms. As the cancer stages advance, the most common symptoms experienced by patients are listed below:
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina between periods, after sexual intercourse and after menopause.
- Discomfort and pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Unusual watery, bloody vaginal discharge, which can be heavy and have a foul odor.
Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer
Early detection has higher chances of getting cervical cancer cured completely. Regular tests are advised for early detection and prevention of cervical cancer from progressing into advanced stages. Your doctor may suggest how often these tests need to be done.
Pap smear test: In this diagnostic procedure, a small portion of the cells from the cervix will be brushed or scraped off and sent to a lab for diagnosis. Pap smear also called Pap test can find precancerous or cancerous cells of the cervix with a help of a microscope.
Colonoscopy and cervical biopsy: This test is conducted to find if there are precancerous or cancerous cells on the surface of the cervix.
Endocervical biopsy / curettage: In this test, your doctor will use a curette (a spoon-shaped tool) or a thin brush to scrape off the surface of the cervical canal to find out if precancerous or cancerous cells are present.
Cone biopsy or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP): This is another procedure to remove the cervical tissue to examine under the microscope for abnormal cell growth. In this procedure, deeper layers of cervical tissues are removed. This procedure is generally performed under general anesthesia.
Punch biopsy: With the help of a punch biopsy forceps, a small sample of cervical tissue will be pinched off and sent for diagnosis.
Electric wire loop: In this procedure, a thin low-voltage electric wire is used to remove the tissue sample from the cervix. This technique is performed under general anesthesia.
HPV DNA test: In this test, the cells from the cervix are collected and checked for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a cause of cervical cancer. This test is usually conducted in women who have an abnormal Pap test.
Staging of cervical cancer
If the above test indicates that there are precancerous or cancerous cells, the medical practitioner will try to find out which stage of cervical cancer the patient is going through, so few more tests will have to be conducted.
The staging exams are generally categorized as below:
Imaging: With the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and CT scans the medical practitioner will be able to know how far the cancer has spread beyond the cervical area.
Physical examination: With the help of sophisticated scopes, the medical practitioner will view the inner regions of the urinary bladder and rectum to find out to what extent the cervical cancer has spread.
Cervical cancer stages
First Stage: Cancer is present only in the cervix.
Second Stage: Cancer is present in the cervix and has spread to the upper portion of the vagina.
Third Stage: Cancer from cervix has moved to the lower part of the vagina or into the pelvic wall.
Fourth Stage: Cancer from cervix has spread to adjacent organs, such as the urinary bladder or rectum, or to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver or sometimes into the bones.