Which clinical history is characteristic of cervical cancer?

Updated: Feb 12, 2019
  • Author: Cecelia H Boardman, MD; Chief Editor: Warner K Huh, MD  more...
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Because many women are screened routinely, the most common finding is an abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) test result. Typically, these patients are asymptomatic.

Clinically, the first symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, usually postcoital. Vaginal discomfort, malodorous discharge, and dysuria are not uncommon.

The tumor grows by extending along the epithelial surfaces, both squamous and glandular, upward to the endometrial cavity, throughout the vaginal epithelium, and laterally to the pelvic wall. It can invade the bladder and rectum directly, leading to constipation, hematuria, fistula, and ureteral obstruction, with or without hydroureter or hydronephrosis. The triad of leg edema, pain, and hydronephrosis suggests pelvic wall involvement. The common sites for distant metastasis include extrapelvic lymph nodes, liver, lung, and bone.

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