By Misty Cox, FNP-C, WHNP, family nurse practitioner

The early stages of cervical cancer don’t have any symptoms, and that’s why it’s so important to get your well-woman exam annually. If you are aged 21-30, pap smears are recommended every three years; If you are 30-65 years old, a pap smear is encouraged every 5 years. However, if you have an abnormal pap smear, your provider will bring you back sooner for either a repeat pap smear or a procedure to make sure you do not have any cancer cells. If cancer cells are detected, your women’s health provider will refer you to an oncologist to provide specialized care.

2 Min Video:

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

If you have any of the symptoms below, you should schedule an appointment with your women’s health provider immediately.

  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • HPV virus
  • Leg swelling
  • Backache
  • Pain or bleeding after intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding during menopause
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Bloody stools
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain

Risk Factors

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Having multiple sex partners during your lifetime
  • Having sex earlier in life
  • Smoking
  • Weakened immune system

How to decrease your risk of cervical cancer:

  • Get the HPV vaccine; talk with your women’s health provider to determine if it is right for you based on your age and other factors
  • Schedule your annual well-woman exam
  • Get your recommended pap smears
  • Practice safe sex
  • Do not smoke, because smoking increases the risk of all forms of cancer and lung disease