Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes larger and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, or having (menstrual) periods that are longer or heavier than usual. Bleeding after douching may also occur.
  • An unusual discharge from the vagina − the discharge may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in the pelvic region

Signs and symptoms seen with more advanced disease can include:

  • Swelling of the legs
  • Problems urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Blood in the urine

These signs and symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, see a health care professional right away. Ignoring symptoms may allow the cancer to grow to a more advanced stage and lower your chance for successful treatment.

For the best chances for treatment to be successful, don't wait for symptoms to appear. Have regular screening tests for cervical cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Eifel P, Klopp AH, Berek JS, and Konstantinopoulos A. Chapter 74: Cancer of the Cervix, Vagina, and Vulva. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Jhungran A, Russell AH, Seiden MV, Duska LR, Goodman A, Lee S, et al. Chapter 84: Cancers of the Cervix, Vulva, and Vagina. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Cervical Cancer Treatment – Health Professional Version. 2019. https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/hp/cervical-treatment-pdq. Updated February 6, 2019. Accessed on October 28, 2019.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Cervical Cancer. Version 4.2019. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/cervical.pdf on October 28, 2019.

Last Medical Review: January 3, 2020 Last Revised: January 3, 2020

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