Precancerous cervical cells do not cause any prominent symptoms, which is why regular screening through Pap and HPV tests is recommended. They can catch precancerous cells early and prevent the development of cervical cancer. Widespread use of the Pap test led to dramatic declines in deaths from cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can reduce risk of cervical cancer as well. HPV causes most cervical cancers. Adolescents are not getting HPV vaccination as often as other recommended vaccines, even though it is safe and effective. Look for these signs to know if you have cervical cancer or not:
• Abnormal bleeding that includes: bleeding between regular menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding after menopause, bleeding after douching and bleeding after a pelvic exam
• Pelvic pain that is not related to menstrual cycle
• Unusual or heavy discharge that is watery, thick or foul smelling
• Pain during urination as well as increased urinary frequency
These symptoms can also be a result of some other condition, so please see your doctor to know what it is.
Girls who started having sex before the age of 16 and before their period, those who have been taking birth control pills for more than five years, women with weak immunity, women who have multiple sexual partners and women with existing STD’s are at a higher risk of contracting cervical cancer.
Other than Pap and HPV tests, women can opt for colonoscopy to check for cervical cancer. In this case, the doctor will stain your cervix with a harmless dye or acetic acid to improve visibility of cells. After that the doctor will use a microscope to magnify your cervix by 8 to 15 times to look for unusual cells.
One more method is the Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) wherein the doctor uses an electrified loop of wire to take a sample tissue of your cervix for a better look.
If you don't treat an HPV infection it can cause the cells to turn into cancer by forming into a tumour over time.