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Getting a cervical cancer diagnosis

How you are told about a cervical cancer diagnosis may depend on your healthcare team, the hospital and your individual situation.

We know that being diagnosed with cervical cancer can be life-changing, which is why we are here to support you at every step. We have a support service that will be right for you, whether you want to talk, connect with others, or simply have someone listen.

Get support >

On this page:

Finding out about your cervical cancer diagnosis

If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, you will usually be invited to the hospital for an appointment . 

Some of our community have found out through a letter, phone call or online records. It is best to be prepared in case this happens for you. While you are waiting, you may want to arrange with a loved one that you will call or see them if you get any news. That way, you can make sure you have the right support around you. 

Read about waiting for results >

Your results may show that you have cervical cell changes. These are not cervical cancer and you will be monitored or treated as needed. Your healthcare team will usually send you a letter with these results, although we know some of our community got a phone call or were asked to go into the hospital.

Read about cervical cell changes >

Preparing for your appointment

Going through tests for cervical cancer and waiting for or getting your results can be stressful. It may bring up a range of difficult and unexpected emotions as you try to process what you’re going through. 

It may help to prepare for your appointment. This can help you feel in control and ready to cope with any news you might be given. 

You might feel like you can’t remember all the information given at your appointments or forget to ask questions. This can be especially true if you have had news which has been a shock. Here are our tips to help you prepare for your appointments:

  • Think about what questions you might have and take a list with you.
  • Keep your phone or a pen and paper handy to note down the answers. 
  • If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask them to explain again.
  • Talk to your GP, the hospital, or call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000 before your appointment if you have questions about what to expect.
  • Depending on what your appointment is for, you may want to do some reading about the subject first. Read our information about cervical cancer >

You may also want to bring someone with you for support and to help you remember any information. This may not be allowed at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic but, if this would be helpful for you, it is important to ask. If they can’t come into the hospital, you may be able to have them on a phone or video call, or ask them to wait outside.

Who you might meet

After getting a cervical cancer diagnosis, you will meet a lot of different healthcare professionals. 

At your appointment

Your appointment will usually be with a consultant oncologist. This is a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with surgery. They are there to explain the test results and next steps, as well as answer any questions you might have.

There may also be a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in the room – sometimes called by another name, like a Macmillan nurse. They are there to offer emotional support and answer any questions you might have. They will be your main point of contact throughout treatment.

Multidisciplinary team (MDT)

Your test results will be discussed by a multidisciplinary team (MDT). These are healthcare professionals with different specialties who will look at all your test results and figure out a treatment and care plan for you. 

The healthcare professionals that are part of your MDT will depend on:

  • your diagnosis 
  • any tests or treatment you might need.

You may meet them at your local hospital or a different hospital, if you have been referred somewhere else for tests or treatment. 

Read more about treatment for cervical cancer >

Questions to ask your healthcare team

You might not feel able or ready to ask any questions at your appointment. Or you may feel that you want to get as much information as possible. 

If you do want to know more about your diagnosis, here are some questions you could ask:

  • What do I need to know about the type of cancer I have?
  • How soon will I start treatment?
  • Do you know what treatment options I have?
  • Is there anything I need to start thinking about now, such as fertility?
  • Who can I contact if I have any questions?
  • What are the next steps?

Getting support after a cervical cancer diagnosis

Being diagnosed with cervical cancer can be life-changing and it may come as a shock. You are likely to go through a range of difficult thoughts and feelings as you try to process your diagnosis. Our community say they felt angry, numb, anxious, scared or distressed. 

There is no right or wrong way to think and feel. But it is important to recognise what you are going through and to seek help if you need it.

Holistic needs assessment (HNA)

Your healthcare team at the hospital should talk to you about how you are feeling emotionally. Your CNS should ask you to fill out a checklist to find out about:

  • emotional concerns
  • physical concerns
  • practical concerns, such as finances or help at home.

This is called a holistic needs assessment (HNA). It gives you and your healthcare team a chance to find solutions for any concerns and create a care plan that works for you. You should have an HNA at diagnosis, during treatment and after treatment. If an HNA isn’t offered, you can ask for it.

Find out more about HNA on the Macmillan Cancer Support website >

Where to get support

You might feel it at the moment, but you aren’t alone. There are lots of people who will understand or want to support you even if they don’t fully understand what you are going through.

Talking to friends and family can be very helpful, but everyone is different and can react in different ways to the diagnosis. Cervical cancer is not common and people often don’t know much about it. They may mean well but just don’t know that to say. This may leave you feeling like people don’t understand or care. 

Sometimes people want to support you but just need to know how. It may help to give your friends and family some information about cervical cancer – you could even show them this website or have them call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000

If you try to talk to someone and their reaction isn’t helpful they might not the right person for you to talk to. You could find someone else to talk to instead.

You should be given the contact details for your CNS. Remember, they are not just there for medical support – they can offer you emotional support too and help make sense of the process.

Sometimes it’s easier to speak to someone you don’t know. A counsellor is an expert who is trained to listen and help you explore your feelings. Your hospital may have counselling or emotional support available, so you may want to ask your healthcare team about that.  

Read about cervical cancer and mental health >

You might find it helpful to mutually support someone else who has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. We hear from lots of women and people with a cervix who have connected over social media and local groups in their area. You could also join our online Forum – it’s a welcoming community where you can talk with others who understand what you’re going through.  

Join our Forum >

How we can help

Our trained volunteers can listen and help you understand what’s going on via our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours >

 

Sometimes connecting with others who have gone through a similar experience can be helpful. Our online Forum lets our community give and get support. You can read through the messages or post your own – whichever feels most comfortable.

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about cervical cancer or getting a diagnosis, our panel of medical experts may be able to help. They can’t give you answers about your individual situation or health – it’s best to speak with your GP or healthcare team for that.

Use our Ask the Expert service >

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it.

References

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Read more about how we research and write our information >

"I cried, because at that point I knew it would be the only time I would let cancer make me cry."
Read Lisa's story
Date last updated: 
03 Nov 2020
Date due for review: 
03 Nov 2020
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