5 cervical cancer warning signs you should never ignore
Woman are being encouraged to look out for the most common signs of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer, with around 3,200 new cases every year, while one in 142 females will be diagnosed within their lifetime
While cervical cancer can often be symptomless, there are some signs experts say you should never ignore
From painful sex to fatigue and unexplained weight loss, read on to find out more about the potential signs of cervical cancer and how spotting them early could save your life
Women could be ignoring some potential key symptoms of cervical cancer, due to a lack of awareness about what to look out for, a leading health expert has warned.
Research, from Cancer Research UK, has revealed that there are around 3,200 new cervical cancer cases in the UK every year, that's nearly nine every day.
Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer, with around 3,200 new cases every year, while one in 142 females will be diagnosed within their lifetime.
Unfortunately, however, too few women are aware of the signs of cervical cancer, and only 69.9% of eligible women between the age of 25 and 64 took up the offer of free cervical screening in 2021-22.
Read more: 12 things people wish they knew about smear tests
With this week marking the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Yahoo UK spoke to Valentina Milanova, founder of women's health research and development company, Daye, to throw a light on the five common symptoms of gynae cancer that we should all look out for.
While cervical cancer can often be symptomless, which is why it is so important to attend regular cervical screenings so your doctor can check for any pre-cancerous cells, there are some symptoms you should never ignore.
"One of the most difficult things about cervical cancer is that in its early stages, it often doesn’t present any symptoms," explains Milanova. "It’s not until it is in its advanced stages that symptoms start to show. This is why it’s incredibly important that all women and assigned female at birth (AFAB) individuals attend their regular cervical screenings (also known as smear tests).
"Cervical screening is a way of preventing cervical cancer as it tests for HPV, which causes the majority of cases of cervical cancer.
"If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. If you or someone you know are experiencing any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor or your local sexual health clinic to investigate further."
Read more: Why it's time to reboot Jade Goody's cervical smear test legacy
From unexpected vaginal bleeding to painful sex, Milanova believes if more women could spot these signs, they might get diagnosed and receive treatment sooner.
The key thing here is that the vaginal bleeding is unusual for you, including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods, or after menopause.
"Bleeding or spotting after a pelvic examination or having heavier periods than usual could also be symptoms of gynaecological cancers, such as cervical cancer," explains Milanova.
Unusual vaginal discharge
Women should look out for changes to the consistency, smell and amount of vaginal discharge, including thicker discharge, discharge with an unpleasant smell, and increased amount of discharge or discharge that has a different colour than normal.
"Pink or reddish discharge is an indication of bleeding and should be brought up with your doctor," Milanova explains.
Watch: Woman who couldn't carry a child after cervical cancer becomes a mum - after her friend was her surrogate
Pain during sex, including experiencing irritation in and around the vagina and vulva is another potential sign women shouldn't ignore.
Pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy, especially when it’s persistent, is also something women are encouraged to look out for.
Read more: 'We never thought it would happen': After cervical cancer, mum welcomes baby girl
Fatigue, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
According to Milanova cervical tumours produce small proteins called cytokines. Some of these proteins can suppress your appetite and cause changes in your metabolism, resulting in fat being broken down at a higher rate than normal.
While many of these symptoms could be down to a number of less serious reasons, it is very important to get checked.
If you have another condition like fibroids or endometriosis, you may get symptoms like these regularly.
You might find you get used to them. But the NHS says it is important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.