Surviving any form of cancer takes it’s a toll, both physically and mentally and know where is that more apparent than when it comes to surviving Cervical cancer. In this edition of the Cancer Pro blog, and as part of our continued support for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we’re going to look at what it means to survive Cervical cancer and what steps can be taken to help prevent cancer returning.
For the majority of women with Cervical cancer, the treatment may remove or destroy cancer, and whilst completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting, it’s hard not to worry about cancer returning.
However, for some women, the cancer may never go away entirely. These women may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to control the cancer for as long as possible. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be incredibly difficult and emotionally challenging.
Why the need for follow up care.
Even when you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. So it’s essential to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, it’s the perfect time to ask your doctor any questions and to talk about any changes or problems you’ve noticed or concerns you have.
During these visits, your doctors will ask if you have any problems and may order further exams, lab tests or imaging tests to look for signs of cancer or side effects from the treatment. Remember, almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may only last for a few days or weeks, while others might last longer. Some side effects might not show up until years after you have finished treatment.
So it’s important to let your doctor know about any new symptoms or problems you’re experiencing because these could be caused by the cancer returning or by a new disease or even second cancer.
While at the Doctors
For women who show no signs of cervical cancer remaining, their doctors will still recommend follow-up visits. Which may include further imaging tests and blood tests with a physical exam every 3 to 6 months for the first couple of years after treatment, then every six months or so for the next few years. People treated for early-stage cancers may need exams less often, and so some doctors may advise different follow-up schedules.
However, all doctors recommend that women treated for Cervical cancer keep getting regular Pap tests no matter how they were treated (surgery or radiation). Although cells for a Pap test are typically taken from the cervix, if there is no longer a cervix because of a trachelectomy or hysterectomy, the doctor will take cells from the upper part of the vagina.
Lowering the risk of cancer progressing or returning.
If you have (or have had) cervical cancer, you probably want to understand if there are things you can do to lower the risk of the cancer growing or returning, such as keeping physically active, following a healthy eating pattern, reducing the intake of alcohol or taking nutritional supplements.
While currently, it’s not yet clear if any of those things will help, it is recognised that smoking is linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer and while it’s not clear if smoking can affect cervical cancer growth or recurrence. It is still wise to stop smoking, which helps decrease the risk of getting another smoking-related cancer. Not smoking can also help you tolerate chemotherapy and radiation better and lessen further damage to the cervix or cervical area cells.
Adopting other healthy behaviours such as eating well, taking regular exercise, and remaining at a healthy weight might help, but no one knows for sure. However, studies have shown that making these changes can positively affect your health, extending beyond your risk of cervical cancer or other cancers.
If cancer returns
If Cervical cancer does return at some point, the treatment options will depend on the cancer stage, what treatments you previously had, and your general health. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these might be options to help relieve any cancer symptoms.
Why emotional support helps
It’s perfectly normal to feel depressed, anxious, or worried when cervical cancer is a part of your life. While some people are affected more than others, everyone can benefit from help and support, whether from friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counsellors, or others. Remember that you are not alone in the fight against cancer, so never be afraid to ask for help and support from those around you.
Second cancer despite treatment
Unfortunately, cancer survivors can be affected by many health problems, but a major concern is facing cancer again. Cancer that returns after treatment is called a recurrence. But some cancer survivors may develop a new, and unrelated cancer which is called a ‘second’ cancer.
Sadly, being treated for cervical cancer doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get another form of cancer. Women who have had Cervical cancer can still get the same types of cancers that other women get. They might even be at a higher risk for certain types of cancer.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families, and caregivers. For more information regarding what it means to be a Cervical cancer survivor, please visit www.cancer-pro.com.