As January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Baylor College of Medicine is reminding women of early — and often ignored — symptoms of this malignancy, like abnormal bleeding.
“January … is a great time for women of all ages to be aware of common symptoms and early warning signs of the disease,”Dr. M. Yvette Williams-Brown, a gynecologic oncologist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor, said in a press release. “All women should know what constitutes abnormal bleeding.”
According to Dr .Williams-Brown, abnormal bleeding in premenopausal women should be of particular concern if it happens outside the menstrual cycle or after sexual intercourse, and if it occurs two to three times a month. In postmenopausal women, abnormal bleeding is considered as any bleeding that occurs a year after the last period, as well as bleeding that occurs after sexual intercourse.
Other warning signs of cervical cancer include one-sided swelling of the leg, shooting pain down the leg, and pain during or after intercourse. “It is important not to panic if you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms,” she said. “Contact your gynecologist, and he or she can evaluate the problem.”
Cervical cancer is curable if detected early through regular Pap smear screenings and a test for human papilloma virus (HPV). Women should talk to their doctors to determine the best type of screening for them, Dr. Williams-Brown said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. through the mid-1990s. However, in the past 40 years, the number of cases and deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly, largely as the result of Pap smear screenings, which can detect pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix.