- Posted by jdavis on August 1, 2011
Precancerous changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not cause pain or other symptoms. It is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.
When the disease gets worse, women may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
- Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
- Bleeding after menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
Infections or other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can tell for sure. A woman with any of these symptoms should tell her doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Diagnosis of cervical cancer
If a woman has a symptom or Pap test results that suggest precancerous cells or cancer of the cervix, her doctor will suggest other procedures to make a diagnosis.
These may include:
- Colposcopy: The doctor uses a colposcope to look at the cervix. The colposcope combines a bright light with a magnifying lens to make tissue easier to see. It is not inserted into the vagina. A colposcopy is usually done in the doctor’s office or clinic.
- Biopsy: The doctor removes tissue to look for precancerous cells or cancer cells. Most women have their biopsy in the doctor’s office with local anesthesia. A pathologist checks the tissue with a microscope.
- Punch biopsy: The doctor uses a sharp, hollow device to pinch off small samples of cervical tissue.
- LEEP: The doctor uses an electric wire loop to slice off a thin, round piece of tissue.
- Endocervical curettage: The doctor uses a curette (a small, spoon-shaped instrument) to scrape a small sample of tissue from the cervical canal. Some doctors may use a thin, soft brush instead of a curette.
- Conization: The doctor removes a cone-shaped sample of tissue. A conization, or cone biopsy, lets the pathologist see if abnormal cells are in the tissue beneath the surface of the cervix. The doctor may do this test in the hospital under general anesthesia. Conization also may be used to remove a precancerous area.
Removing tissue from the cervix may cause some bleeding or other discharge. The area usually heals quickly. Women may also feel some pain similar to menstrual cramps. Medicine can relieve this discomfort.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before having a procedure:
- Which test(s) do you recommend?
- How will the test be done?
- Will I have to go to the hospital?
- How long will it take? Will I be awake? Will it hurt?
- Are there any risks? What are the chances of infection or bleeding after the procedure?
- Can the test affect my ability to get pregnant and have children?
- How soon will I know the results? Who will explain them to me?
- If I do have cancer, who will talk to me about the next steps? When?