Cervical Cancer Survivors: Here’s What to Expect
Hearing the news that your cancer is cured is one of the greatest and most relieving feelings! After the initial wave of happiness, however, you may have a lot of questions about what comes next.
About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is one of the main types of gynecologic cancers, but the number of cases of cervical cancer has declined in the past 40 years due to more women getting the HPV vaccine and getting regular pap tests.
Depending on the stage of the patient’s cervical cancer, a combination of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy may be recommended.
Common Concerns After Cervical Cancer Treatment
It can be very stressful for women to get back to their normal life after surviving cervical cancer, but it can help to have a better understanding of what you can expect. The important thing to remember is that you aren’t alone and there are steps you can take to live a happy and healthy life after cancer. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctors, including your gynecologist.
Staying on top of your health
One of the first steps to take after your cancer is in remission is to talk with your doctor about what you need to know for the near future including:
- Follow-up exams. The recommended tests and how often you need them will depend on the stage of your cancer. Most women will need regular pap tests and it is recommended that you have a physical every three to six months for a couple of years after treatment.
- Possible side effects. Side effects from cervical cancer treatment can last for years or show up years later. Keep open communication with your OBGYN to find the best way for you to manage these symptoms. The American Cancer Society provides more information about managing side effect caused by cancer treatment.
- Lifestyle habits to make. Eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking can help improve your overall health.
Changes in your sexual health and fertility
There may be side effects and changes in your fertility due to the cancer or treatment, but have hope that you can have a successful pregnancy and a normal sex life after cancer.
Discuss symptoms including vaginal dryness, vaginal tightness, painful intercourse, and changes in libido with your doctor. There may be medications or treatments that can ease these symptoms.
If you are not able to become pregnant after cervical cancer, know that there are many other options available to you. Some women have their eggs harvested and frozen for future use before undergoing treatment. You can also have a surrogate mother carry your child or consider adopting a child.
Will the cancer come back?
One of the biggest tolls that cancer can take is on your mental health. It’s normal to have concerns over your cancer coming back, but as time goes on try to focus less on this fear. A doctor, professional therapist, member of your faith community, family or friends, or a fellow cervical cancer survivor can help you work towards putting your fears behind you.