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Preparing for treatment

Any treatment for cervical cancer can feel scary or overwhelming. You can start to feel more in control by preparing for the practical, physical and emotional side of treatment.

We hope the information on this page helps, but know you might need some extra support. We are here to give you that – whether it’s through a phone call, email or connecting with others.

Get support >

On this page:

Preparing practically

You may need to take time off from work or get support with childcare and other commitments after treatment. Knowing how long it may take to recover can help you plan this in advance. Check our treatment page to find out about recovery times.

Find your treatment >

If you have to take time off work or from other commitments, as well as avoiding certain activities during your recovery, you may need some extra support.

You may need to take time off work before, during or after treatment to cope with the physical effects as well as the emotional impact. You might be worried about what this will mean for your job or future.

At the moment, managing work may seem easier as a lot of people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But you will still need a break, even if you don’t have to physically travel anywhere.

Cervical cancer is considered a disability under the law. This means you have legal rights at work – you cannot be treated differently to people who do not have cancer. You also have a right to ask for reasonable adjustments at work. These are things that make it easier for you to continue working or come back to work. 

It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your human resources (HR) department at work and read through any policies. 

Read about work and cancer on the Macmillan Cancer Support website >

Being diagnosed with cervical cancer means you have a right to financial support. This could include benefits and grants to help support your day-to-day life, for example with bills or transport to the hospital. Make sure you get any financial support you’re entitled to – it helps to apply as early as possible.

Read about financial support on the Macmillan Cancer Support website >

While you are having and recovering from treatment, you may need some extra help at home. This might be support with childcare, other caring commitments, or practical things such as cooking and cleaning.  

Here are our suggestions for things you can do ahead of time:

  • Stock your cupboard and freezer with easy-to-prepare food. You may want to check with your healthcare team which foods would be best.
  • Ask your friends and family how they can help. Sometimes reaching out to others can feel like a huge step, but your loved ones will want to support you. It may be that someone can drop a weekly shop at your door or offer to clean every couple of weeks. 
  • Consider paid or community support. If you can afford a cleaner, it may help take some pressure off you or your family while you recover. Some areas also have community groups that volunteer to help out with housework and other tasks. You may want to check if anything is available in your area. 
  • Ask your GP or healthcare team about local services. If you live alone or aren’t sure where to start, they should be able to signpost you to different schemes or support in your area.

You will be travelling to and from hospital for treatment, which can be expensive. You may be able to get help with the cost of going to hospital for treatment. It is a good idea to check whether the hospital has any schemes you could use.

After some treatments, such as a hysterectomy, you may not be able to drive for a few weeks while your wound heals. If you need to travel anywhere, you may want to check if friends and family can help you. You may also be eligible for community transport services in your area. It is worth checking if you can get free or discounted travel fares, as cancer is considered a disability.

Read about transport and parking on the Macmillan Cancer Support website >

Preparing emotionally

You may feel a whole mixture of emotions about having treatment, from relief that it’s happening through to worry or upset about how it might impact you. It may help to know that you aren’t alone in this – it’s common to go through this range of emotions. 

This goes for every diagnosis and type of treatment. You may feel like a very early stage diagnosis or more minor treatment doesn’t count, when it does. A cervical cancer diagnosis is a cervical cancer diagnosis, and you are entitled to support for that.

Once you have been introduced to your healthcare team, remember to use them when you need them. You should have a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who is available to answer your questions as well as providing emotional support.

It can sometimes help to talk to someone you don’t know who can work through any worries with you. You can ask your GP to be referred to a counsellor, check if the hospital can offer you a counselling service, or find your own – although this may be for a cost. 

Read about getting support with your mental health >

Depending on the treatment you are having, you may have to stay in hospital for a few days or longer. You might want to pack a bag in advance. It can help to have everything you need to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible:

  • Your own nightie, pyjamas, dressing gown, slippers or slip on shoes. A nightie may be easier, so you don’t have to worry about pyjama bottoms if you need a catheter.
  • Your phone, tablet or other electronic device to help you pass the time. You might enjoy listening to music or podcasts, or watching TV programmes or films. Remember to fully charge your devices and download anything you want to watch, as hospital WiFi isn’t always good.
  • If you enjoy reading, you may find found books and magazines helpful. You could also bring mindfulness colouring books, puzzles or crafts such as crochet or knitting.
  • It may also help to have things to help you relax, keep calm and feel positive. For you, this might be essential oils, downloading some relaxation or meditation podcasts, bringing something related to your faith, or keeping a journal to write in.

At the moment, you may not be able to have visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know this can be difficult, so it may help to prepare to keep in touch:

  • Before your treatment, arrange to keep in touch by phone or video call.
  • Make sure your phone or other electronic devices are fully charged
  • Check if you can bring things with you that remind you of home or family, such as photos, cards or letters.

Sometimes you need to speak with someone who has already had treatment. Although everyone’s experience is different, they can give you some idea of what to expect and share any helpful tips they picked up along the way. 

We have a wonderful community in our online Forum. They support each other through different stages of cervical cancer and could support you too. You don’t have to post anything if you don’t feel comfortable – reading through other people’s message might be enough.

Join our Forum >

Before treatment, you may be so focused on what’s to come and getting through it that you forget to process where you currently are in an emotional sense. Or you may feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start. Either way, it is important to mentally take a step back and try to figure out what you need at this time. 

We have lots of information, blogs and tips to support your mental health:

Preparing physically

It can help to make sure you are as fit and healthy as possible before you have surgery. This might seem strange, especially when you have had a cancer diagnosis, but research shows that being in good health before your surgery means you may have a better recovery.

Stopping smoking may be easier said than done, especially if it is a tool to cope with stress – which you will probably be feeling a lot of at the moment. However, smoking can:

  • mean you have a longer recovery time
  • make any side effects after radiotherapy worse or last longer  
  • increase the risk of complications – particularly if you are having surgery.

If you want to stop smoking, there is support available. The NHS has free services across the UK:

You could also speak to your GP to get some more suggestions.

Being active may be the last thing on your mind, or you may not feel well enough to do much exercise. Just getting moving in some way can help. You could start with short walks, stretching or a gentle yoga session and build up from there. 

The NHS have an online Fitness Studio with free videos. You may want to use it to practice exercises in your home, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic means you can’t get out as much at the moment.

Visit the NHS Fitness Studio >

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you feel good as well as improving your overall health. If you decide to change your diet, it’s a good idea to speak with your GP or healthcare team first. They can advise what to eat based on your current diagnosis, upcoming treatment and medical history. 

Read about a balanced diet on the NHS website >

Feeling stressed can slow down how quickly your body can heal. Before surgery, it might help to try and lower your current stress levels as much as possible. You can also think about what helps you feel relaxed, so you can prepare to have those things, activities or people around when you need them. 

We know reducing stress is not easy when you have a cervical cancer diagnosis and are waiting for treatment. If you need some extra support, we’re here to talk through what might help and listen to what’s going on for you – sometimes getting it all out can help.

Get support >

More information and support to prepare for treatment

A cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a big impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Preparing for treatment can help you feel in control, as well as support your recovery. Remember that you can ask your healthcare team as many questions as you need to before treatment – you don’t have to wait. 

We are here for you too. Our trained volunteers can listen, talk through your options and offer suggestions for how to prepare 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 treatment, 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

  • Nelson, G. et al (2019). Guidelines for perioperative care in gynecologic/oncology: Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Society recommendations—2019 update. International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer. 29;4. pp.651-668.

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 >

Treating cervical cancer >

Find out about different treatments. 

Tips for starting treatment

Our community shared their top tips for before treatment.

Read the blog
Date last updated: 
03 Nov 2020
Date due for review: 
01 Nov 2023
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