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  • Looking after yourself after treatment for cancer of the uterus

    Contents

    Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your well-being as much as possible.

    Nutrition

    Eating healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can help you manage special dietary needs or eating problems, and choose the best foods for your situation.

    For more information about nutrition, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Nutrition and Cancer.

    Staying active

    Physical activity may help to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.

    For more information about exercise, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Exercise for people living with cancer.

    Complementary therapies

    These therapies are used with conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying as some may not be safe or evidence based.

    Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful.

    For more information about complementary therapies, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Understanding Complementary Therapies.

    Relationship with others

    Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life.

    Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example by being overly positive, playing down fears or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.

    Sexuality, intimacy and fertility

    Uterine cancer can affect your sexuality in both physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner.

    Treatment can cause physical side effects such as tiredness, and soreness and narrowing of the vagina. These side effects can make sexual penetration painful, and you may have to explore different ways to orgasm or climax. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage side effects that change your sex life. This may include using vaginal dilators, lubricants and moisturisers.

    The experience of having cancer can also reduce your desire for sex (libido). However, for most women, sex is more than arousal, intercourse and orgasms. It involves feelings of intimacy and acceptance, as well as being able to give and receive love.

    Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.

    Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes. Talk openly with your partner about how you’re feeling, and take things slowly by starting with hugs or a massage if you’re not ready to have sexual intercourse.

    Your doctor will tell you if treatment will affect your fertility. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment. 

    For more information on sexuality, intimacy and fertility, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or download the booklets Sexuality, Intimacy and CancerFertility and Cancer and Emotions and Cancer.

    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 if every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

    Some women say that they feel pressure to return to ‘normal life’, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and re-establish a new daily routine at your own pace.

    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.

    Dealing with feelings of sadness

    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 medicineseven for a short timemay help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible.

    The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. Go to beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 224 636 to order a fact sheet.

    Cancer Council SA offers a free Cancer Counselling Service which offers you an opportunity to discuss your cancer experience and its impact on your life.  Contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

    Follow-up appointments

    After your treatment, you will need regular check-ups to confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back and to manage any long-term side effects of treatment. These appointments may be with any of your specialists, for example, your gynaecological oncologist or medical oncologist. It’s common for women to worry before their follow-up appointments. To help ease your concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor or nurse about what to expect.

    There is no set follow-up schedule for uterine cancerhow often you will need to see your doctor will depend on the level of monitoring needed for the type and stage of the cancer. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of your follow-up plan.

    Follow-up appointments may include a pelvic examination, blood tests, discussion about any side effects or new symptoms, and imaging tests. Women who have had cancer of the uterus are at an increased risk of breast and bowel cancertalk to your doctor about how often to conduct breast examinations and undergo screening.

    Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any health problems.

    What if the cancer returns?

    For some women, uterine cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. The majority of uterine cancers that recur do so in the first three years after treatment.

    Recurrence can be locally in the uterus (if you didn’t have a hysterectomy), in the lymph nodes or further away in other body sites, like the bladder, bones or lungs. If the cancer recurs, you may be offered further treatment to try to control the cancer.

    Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated July 2018.

    Information reviewed by: A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology Group, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Lauren Atkins, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Scott Carruthers, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Prof Michael Friedlander, Medical Oncologist, Royal Hospital for Women Sydney, NSW; Roslyn McAullay, Social Worker, Women and Newborn Health Service, King Edward Memorial Hospital, WA; Anne Mellon, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Hunter New England Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, NSW; Christine O’Bryan, Consumer; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Department of Physiotherapy, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, WA.

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