Main symptoms of cervical cancer
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- vaginal bleeding that's unusual for you – including bleeding during or after sex, between your periods or after the menopause, or having heavier periods than usual
- changes to your vaginal discharge
- pain during sex
- pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy
If you have another condition like fibroids or endometriosis, you may get symptoms like these regularly.
You might find you get used to them. But it's important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have any symptoms of cervical cancer
Try not to be embarrassed – the doctor or nurse will be used to talking about these symptoms.
These symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions.
Having them does not definitely mean you have cervical cancer. But it's important to get them checked by a GP.
This is because if they're caused by cancer, finding it early means treatment is more likely to be successful.
What happens at the GP appointment
The GP may ask to examine you.
You can ask for a female doctor when you book your appointment.
You'll be asked to undress from the waist down, behind a screen. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.
Then the GP may:
- look at the outside of your vagina (vulva)
- feel inside your vagina with 2 fingers while pressing on your tummy (they will be wearing gloves)
- gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina so they can see your cervix
- take a small sample of cells from your cervix using a soft brush
It should not be painful, but you may find it uncomfortable. Talk to the GP if you're feeling uncomfortable.
You can have a friend, family member or other member of staff in the room with you during your exam if you want.
You are in control and can ask the doctor to stop at any time.
Referral to a specialist
The GP or practice nurse may refer you for more tests or to see a specialist in hospital if they think you have a condition that needs to be investigated.
This may be an urgent referral, usually within 2 weeks, if you have certain symptoms. This does not definitely mean you have cancer.
Find out more
Page last reviewed: 02 September 2021
Next review due: 02 September 2024