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What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Obvious symptoms of cervical cancer do not appear until the cancer has begun to grow. There may be some vaginal bleeding in between periods or after sexual intercourse. In addition to pain in the pelvic region, there may be heavy bleeding or an unpleasant smelling discharge. Many of the symptoms could indicate another issue as well, so an exam would be the best course of action when any of these symptoms appear. Since there are no early warning signs, it is vital that regular gynecological exams are utilized to catch any signs of cervical cancer before it gets out of control.

Symptoms of cervical cancer may include unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, or pain or bleeding during intercourse. But often there are no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer until it has spread to other tissue. Regular Pap tests are essential for finding cervical cancer early.

Generally there are no symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer. As the disease progresses, women may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding: bleeding between menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, having menstrual periods that are longer and heavier than before and bleeding after menopause
  • vaginal discharge
  • pelvic pain
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Because there are no symptoms of cervical cancer at the beginning, you should visit your healthcare provider regularly for early detection and prevention.

Chief symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding after having sexual relations, bleeding in between periods and any pelvic pain that's unexplained. Any of those things could be a sign of a gynecologic issue that needs to be addressed by a doctor. For women who are post menopause, bleeding may also be a symptom and a sign of either a cervical or uterine problem.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex (vaginal intercourse), bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, and having (menstrual) periods that are longer or heavier than usual. Bleeding after douching or after a pelvic exam may also occur.
  • An unusual discharge from the vagina—the discharge may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
  • Pain during intercourse.

A cervical cancer diagnosis can only be made after a biopsy. If a biopsy shows that cancer is present, your doctor may order certain tests to see how far the cancer has spread.

In its earliest stages, cervical cancer usually causes no symptoms. Irregular bleeding, bleeding or pain during sex and vaginal discharge may be symptoms of more advanced disease. These symptoms don't necessarily mean you have cancer, but they should always be discussed with a healthcare professional.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.