Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur can include:

  • Continuous vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody or foul-smelling
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause
  • Periods that become heavier and last longer than usual
  • Any bleeding after menopause

Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Single swollen leg
  • Heavy bleeding from the vagina
  • Leaking of urine or feces from the vagina
  • Bone fractures

Cervical Cancer Diagnosis

Regular Pap smears screen for cancer and precancerous conditions, but do not confirm a final diagnosis of cervical cancer. If abnormal changes are seen, the cervix is usually examined under magnification. This is called colposcopy. Pieces of tissue are surgically removed (biopsied) during this procedure and sent to a laboratory for examination.

Other tests or treatments for cervical pre-cancers may include:

  • Endocervical Curettage (ECC) - to examine the opening of the cervix
  • LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) - uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue
  • Cryotherapy - freezes abnormal cells
  • Laser Therapy - uses light to burn abnormal tissue
  • Cervical Cone Biopsy - sometimes, a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the womb) may be used to treat women who have had repeated LEEP or cone procedures.

If the diagnosis of cervical cancer is confirmed, the health care provider may order more tests to find out how far the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Tests may include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Cystoscopy (examination of the inside of the bladder and urethra)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP - an X-ray of the kidneys, ureters and urinary bladder)