What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

Woman against purple wall

Every year, about 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Because the symptoms are not always obvious, cervical cancer is commonly diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam. Your gynecologist or other women’s health provider will conduct a Pap test to find abnormal cells, and may detect a tumor on your cervix during your exam.

Despite the typical way it is diagnosed, there are signs of cervical cancer and preventive information all women should know.

HPV: The Cause of Most Cervical Cancers

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is passed from person to person through sexual contact. HPV infection usually goes away on its own, but if it does not, it can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine to prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most people get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. The vaccine works best when you get it before you have any type of sexual contact with someone else. The vaccine is approved for people ages 9 through 45.

Signs of Cervical Cancer May Not Be Obvious

Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a women’s health provider for a pelvic exam and further evaluation. Your gynecologist, family doctor, nurse practitioner, or other provider can perform this evaluation for you.

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as heavier than normal periods, bleeding with sex, bleeding in between periods, or sporadic bleeding
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Pelvic pain or pain with sex
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Swelling in the legs 

Treatment and Management by a Gynecologic Oncologist

Following a cervical cancer diagnosis, the next step will be to see a gynecologic oncologist. Any women’s health provider can refer you appropriately to your nearest gynecologic oncologist.

Gynecologic and radiation oncologists have special training in treating cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. With appropriate and prompt treatment, cervical cancer can often be cured.

Clinical trials use new treatment options to see if they are safe and effective. If you have cancer, talk with your doctor if you may want to take part.

author name

Caitlin S. Farabaugh, MD

Caitlin S. Farabaugh, MD, is a physician with LG Health Physicians Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Farabaugh’s areas of expertise include gynecologic cancer surgery, complex pelvic surgery, colposcopy, and da Vinci® Robotic Surgery.

Education: Medical School–Dartmouth Medical School; Residency–University of Colorado School of Medicine; Fellowship–University of Pennsylvania.

Call: 717-544-3600

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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