Symptoms of advanced cancer

Advanced cervical cancer means that a cancer that began in the cervix has spread to another part of the body.

Symptoms depend on where the cancer is in the body. They might include:

  • tiredness and feeling unwell
  • griping pain in your tummy (abdomen)
  • feeling bloated
  • constipation
  • vomiting large amounts

It might not mean that you have advanced cancer if you have these symptoms. They can be caused by other conditions.

Tell your doctor or specialist nurse if you're worried about a symptom or if it continues for more than a few days.

Where cancer can spread

The most common places for cervical cancer to spread is to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs and bones.

Symptoms if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.

The most common symptom that happens when cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, is that they feel hard or swollen. Cervical cancer can spread to lymph nodes in the area between the hip bones (pelvis).

Cancer cells can also stop lymph fluid from draining away. This might lead to swelling in your legs due to fluid build up. The swelling is called lymphoedema.

Diagram of the lymph nodes in the pelvis with para-aortic lymph nodes

Symptoms if cancer has spread to the liver

You might have any of these symptoms if the cancer has spread to your liver:

  • discomfort or pain on the right side of your abdomen
  • feeling sick 
  • poor appetite and weight loss 
  • swollen abdomen (called ascites) 
  • yellowing of the skin (jaundice) 
  • itchy skin 

Symptoms if cancer has spread to the lungs

You may have any of these symptoms if cancer has spread to your lungs:

  • a cough that doesn’t go away (often worse at night)
  • breathlessness
  • ongoing chest infections
  • coughing up blood
  • a build up of fluid between the chest wall and the lung (a pleural effusion)

Symptoms if cancer has spread to the bones

Cervical cancer may spread to the bones. The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the bone is bone pain. It is usually there most of the time and wakes you up at night. It can be a dull ache or stabbing pain.

Your bones might also become weaker and more likely to break (fracture).

Having bone pain does not mean that your cancer has definitely spread to the bones. There may be other reasons for your bone pain. Speak to your doctor or nurse if you are worried.

Last reviewed: 
22 Apr 2020
Next review due: 
22 Apr 2023
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    C Marth and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2017. Volume 28, Supplement 4

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer 
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2004

  • Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine (5th edition)
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