Katrina Cunnane was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018. When she had abnormal vaginal bleeding two years ago, she thought it was just an irregular period. However, the bleeding resumed with greater intensity a few weeks later, accompanied by pain in the lower back. The Pap smear test showed that there was a mass of abnormal cells in her cervix. It's cervical cancer.
The cancer cannot be removed because it has already grown too large. She had to receive a series of radiotherapy. Her body responded well, and doctors assured her that there was an “80 per cent survival rate”. In March, this year however, a routine PET scan revealed the cancer had spread deep into her pelvic tissue and lymph nodes. Katrina, now 34 years old, is praying for a “miracle” now.
Be alert to cervical cancer
Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. In recent years, with the increased use of Pap smears, the cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates that there are 13,800 women in the United States diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and about 4,290 deaths.
As dangerous as it can be, cervical cancer is highly treatable and associated with long-term survival in its initial stages. Early intervention can be the difference between life and death. Therefore, it is of vital importance to watch out for the possible early signs.
Early signs of cervical cancer
Any of the following could be signs or symptoms of cervical cancer:
- - Abnormal bleeding (during or after sex, between or following period) which is the most common and earliest sign of cervical cancer.
- - Longer and heavier menstrual bleeding
- - Increased vaginal discharge (may contain some blood)
- - Pain during sex
- - Persistent pelvic and/or back pain
If you have any of these signs, talk with your doctor. They may appear to be symptoms of other less serious conditions, but the only way to know is to see your doctor. Since in many cases there’re no noticeable symptoms during the pre-cancer stage, it is highly recommended that all women have regular Pap smear tests.
Cervical cancer will remain to be one of the main threats facing women in the U.S. and beyond for the foreseeable future, but prompt attention and regular tests can keep making a difference, as they have done in the past few years.