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  • Looking after yourself after treatment for cervical cancer

    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.

    Relationships 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

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

    If you are able to have sex you may be advised to use certain types of contraception to avoid pregnancy, for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. 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.

    Follow-up appointments

    After your treatment, you will need regular check-ups to confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back. At these appointments, you may have a follow-up HPV test or liquid-based cytology test, blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan or PET scan. Your doctor will discuss your follow-up schedule with you.

    What if cervical cancer returns?

    For some women, cervical cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. This is why it’s important to have regular check-ups. If cervical cancer does return, you will usually be offered treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. You may not be able to have further radiotherapy if you had it the first time you had treatment.

    Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated December 2017.

    Information reviewed by:  Prof Ian Hammond, Gynaecological Oncologist (retired), WA and Chair, Cancer Council Australia Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Working Party, National Cervical Screening Program: Guidelines for the management of screen-detected abnormalities, screening in specific populations and investigation of abnormal vaginal bleeding. Cancer Council Australia, Sydney, 2016; Jennifer Duggan, Clinical Nurse Consultant Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Dr Rhonda Farrell, Gynaecological Oncologist, Royal Hospital for Women, Prince of Wales Private Hospital, St George Hospital, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Women’s & Children’s Health, University of NSW; Melinda Grant, Consumer; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Megan Smith, Program Manager – Cervix/HPV and Breast Group, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW

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