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Life after treatment

For most women, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

Some women say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other women who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

Download our booklet ‘Living Well after Cancer’

After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. 

At these appointments, you will usually have a pelvic examination, and you may have a follow-up HPV test or liquid-based cytology (LBC) test, blood tests, x-rays, a CT scan or PET scan. You will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have. Your doctor will discuss your follow-up schedule with you.

When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, many people find that they think more about the cancer and may feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer
Council 13 11 20
if you are finding it hard to manage this anxiety.

For the first few years, you will probably have a check-up every 3–6 months. Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Let your doctor know immediately if you have any symptoms or health problems between follow-up appointments.

For some women cervical cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. It is important to have regular check-ups so that if cancer does come back, it can be found early. If cervical cancer returns, you will usually be offered treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. If you had radiation therapy the first time you had treatment, you may not be able to have further radiation therapy.

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medicine – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council SA also offers a free counselling service.

For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in September 2019 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecological Oncologists, TAS; Karina Campbell, Consumer; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland; Prof Martin K Oehler, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Dr Megan Smith, Program Manager – Cervix, Cancer Council NSW; Pauline Tanner, Cancer Nurse Coordinator – Gynaecology, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician, Physiotherapy Department, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.