Common Symptoms Associated With Cervical Cancer

The Signs Every Woman Should Know

Woman talking to her doctor
Caiaimage/Rafal Rodzoch/Getty Images

Cervical cancer is a disease that affects the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus that connects to the upper part of the vagina. And in the early stages of this cancer, women do not usually experience any symptoms.

In fact, for many women, a cervical cancer diagnosis comes as a surprise because of the absence of noticeable symptoms. In many cases, cervical cancer is only diagnosed after an abnormal Pap smear result.

This is why having a regular Pap smear is so critical for your cervical health!

Still, you may be experiencing cervical cancer symptoms and not even realize it. It's not uncommon for women to brush off symptoms like pelvic pain as being related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or ovulation. Other women falsely assume vaginal bleeding after sex is normal, which it is not. If you are experiencing anything unusual, it's important to see your family doctor or gynecologist.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

Abnormal vaginal bleeding: If you experience heavy periods or mild to severe spotting between periods, you should see your OB/GYN to determine the cause. Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be caused by many conditions and diseases, including cervical cancer. Bleeding after sex, after douching, or after a pelvic exam should also be considered abnormal.

Unusual vaginal discharge: Every woman experiences some degree of normal vaginal discharge, but it's important to know the difference between normal and abnormal.

A normal discharge can be yellow, clear, or even a cloudy white color. Abnormal vaginal discharge may be foul-smelling, watery, thick, and/or contain mucus. If you experience an unusual vaginal discharge (including an increase in discharge), it is critical to see your doctor, even if you do not have any other symptoms.

Pelvic pain: Most women experience a degree of pelvic discomfort or pain before or during their period. However, when it occurs frequently, it should be evaluated by a doctor. Women with cervical cancer have described the pelvic pain as a mild to severe dull ache (cramping) and/or sharp pains that can last for hours. Like other cervical cancer symptoms, pelvic pain is a vague symptom and is often associated with many other diseases and conditions.

Pain during urination: Bladder pain or pain during urination can be a symptom of advanced cervical cancer. This cervical cancer symptom usually occurs when cancer has spread to the bladder. In most cases, pain during urination is likely related to a less serious condition, like a urinary tract infection.

Pain during sex (dyspareunia): Pain during sex can be a late-onset symptom of cervical cancer.

Please keep in mind that these cervical cancer symptoms are also symptoms of many other illnesses. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please see a doctor. Do not wait for symptoms to improve or go away on their own. Your doctor will most likely do a pelvic exam and possibly a Pap smear. Depending on your health history, your doctor may recommend you have an imaging test, such as a pelvic ultrasound.


Frumovitz M. Invasive cervical cancer: Epidemiology, risk factors, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. In: UpToDate. Falk SJ. (Ed) UpToDate. 2016.

Continue Reading