Living with side effects

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You may experience side effects from your treatment. These can happen during and/or immediately after surgery or radiotherapy. They tend to settle in the weeks following treatment. Sometimes side effects may develop months or years after treatment has finished. These are called late effects. They tend not to go away on their own. If you are experiencing any side effects after your treatment, you can discuss them with your medical team.

If you are still receiving follow-up care you can speak to your oncology team, cancer nurse specialists or consultant. If these symptoms don’t begin until you have left follow-up care you can contact your GP, a specialist nurse, a physiotherapist or any other primary health care provider you feel comfortable with. Your medical team should be able to offer you advice and help on how to manage them or they may refer you on to a specialist for the symptoms you are suffering from.

You can also read more about possible side effects after radiotherapy and after a hysterectomy.

If you are experiencing side effects from treatment, you are not expected to just put up with them. There is no need to suffer in silence. There is help out there. There are different specialists that can help you deal with any of the following: bowel or bladder changes, gynaecological issues, sexual health, pain and many more. If you are concerned make sure you seek advice and get a referral from your CNS, Gynaeoncologist or GP. You deserve the best quality of life possible.

It may be worth keeping a diary to help describe the symptoms you are experiencing, which can help when you discuss them with your medical team.

For more information on the late effects of radiotherapy please visit out pages of pelvic radiation disease (PRD).

Early menopause and HRT
Some of the treatments for cervical cancer can cause you to go thorough the menopause early. The menopause means that your periods will stop and you may have menopausal side effects, such as hot flushes, dry skin and possibly a loss of concentration. Some women become less interested in sex and notice that their vagina is dry. 

Going through the menopause can bring many challenges which can be worrying, but there are treatments available to help you. Menopausal side effects can be reduced by taking hormone replacement treatment (HRT) as tablets or skin patches, as well as other non-medical treatments that you can discuss with your medical team. You can read more about early menopause and HRT in our website section, where you will find more detailed information on:

For more information on organisations that can provide more information on the menopause and HRT, please visit our useful links page.

Loss of fertility as a result of treatment
Your treatment for cervical cancer may have caused changes to your body that have resulted in a loss of your fertility. The impact of having this taken away from you so suddenly cannot be underestimated. It may take time and perhaps support from a professional or other women in a similar situation, to come to terms with this loss. For some women this change will feel like a bereavement, which is not as strange as it may sound as grief and bereavement follow loss in our lives. You may also experience a sense of isolation from your peers who may be starting their own families.

Katherine’s story

Watch Katherine’s story to hear about her experiences with fertility during her treatment for cervical cancer.

Our online forum has space where you can talk about how you feel and get support from others who understand what you're going through.

Visit our useful links page on fertility and loss of fertility.

Losing the chance to complete your family as a result of treatment
Perhaps you have children already but you don't feel that you have completed your family. The impact of your fertility ending so suddenly without choice can also be difficult to accept. You may not have had time to adjust to this new situation and it may feel that for a while you are grieving the loss of the possibility of future children. Allow yourself time and do use any of our support services to talk to others who are facing similar experiences.

‘I have two girls and would have loved to have a boy. I was pretty sure I wanted more kids…it was a very tough decision.’ – Cervical Cancer Stories research participant

Visit our cancer stories information page to hear about other women’s experiences and read the full report.

If you want support to help you deal with these complex and emotional issues your GP or CNS are always a good place to start. If you decide after speaking to them to seek private therapy or counselling, see our information on this.

Both yourself and your partner can also seek support on this issue from our online forum.

Going forward
The cancer experience can make us reflect on what's important in our lives and some people start making changes for the better. Perhaps you will decide to reduce the causes of stress in your life and make more time for things that give you a lift or make you feel good. This can be anything from spending time with your family, reading a book, booking a holiday or returning to work; the list is endless and setting some short and long term goals to focus on can be really important in helping you move forward in a way that feels manageable.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is here to support you and we'll help you get through the tough days.

Date last updated: 
07 Dec 2015
Date due for review: 
06 Nov 2018

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