Cervical cancer symptoms and risk factors: What to watch for

Each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. And though it most often occurs in women over age 40, younger women can get cervical cancer, too. Like many types of cancer, cervical cancer doesn’t usually show any symptoms until the disease has spread to nearby tissues. But it’s important to know the signs of cervical cancer so you know what to watch for, says Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., co-leader of our HPV-Related Cancers Moon Shot™. The most common cervical cancer symptoms that Schmeler sees are:   Abnormal vaginal bleeding: This could include bleeding between menstrual periods, bleeding after sex or bleeding after menopause. Pelvic pain: This is typically constant pelvic pain. Or it may feel like pressure on your pelvis. It’s important to keep in mind that cervical cancer symptoms tend to be vague and similar to those of other conditions. “Just because you have these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer,” Schmeler says. “But if you have any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, see your doctor.” Know your cervical cancer risk While all women should watch for symptoms, certain women may be more likely to develop cervical cancer. This includes women who: Have an HPV infection. About 80% of people have HPV at some point, and most of these cases clear up on their own, but some HPV infections can cause cancer. Have a sexually transmitted disease, including chlamydia or HIV, since these increase your risk for HPV Have a history of untreated cervical dysplasia, or precancerous cell changes found through an abnormal Pap test Smoke Have a weakened immune system Were...