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Cervical cancer and mental health

Being diagnosed with cervical cancer and having treatment can be life-changing, so it is normal to experience a range of difficult thoughts and feelings that may change, go away and come back over time. Some people have lots of emotions, while others they may feel numb or as if this were happening to someone else. 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 feel you need it. 

On this page, we talk through different feelings many people experience and explore some reasons you may be feeling this way. In this section, we also have a page on:

How you might feel

A cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment can trigger many different feelings, including:

  • fear and anxiety
  • worry
  • isolation or loneliness
  • sadness or depression
  • anger or irritability 
  • guilt
  • embarrassment or self-consciousness
  • grief or loss.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to feel, but it can be overwhelming. It might help to know you aren’t alone – most people who have been diagnosed with cancer feel this way at some point, with some situations, like visiting the doctor, triggering even stronger feelings. Knowing what you are experiencing is both normal and common can help you to talk to those around you and get the support you need.

Read our information on worrying about cervical cancer coming back >

Identifying why you feel this way

Having different emotions at different times can be very confusing. Knowing why you feel this way can help you find ways to manage them. 

These are some common triggers for different emotions:

Diagnosis of cervical cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer can trigger all sorts of thoughts and feelings because you are facing a significant illness that you did not expect to face. You may be thinking ‘why me?’ or ‘I am angry this has happened to me’. These thoughts are very normal and to be expected. 

Changes to fertility

For some a diagnosis of cervical cancer can also mean that you are not able to have children. You may be thinking ‘I am sad about not being able to have children’, ‘this isn’t fair’, or ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me.’ Our ability to have a family and plan for the future is very significant, so again these thoughts in this situation are very common. 

Read more about changes to fertility >

Starting treatment

Starting treatment for the first time can be daunting. You may be thinking about what the treatment will be like for you and how you will manage. In most cases, the routine of treatment is new for people, so it takes time to adjust to. 

Changes to your appearance

Going through cancer treatment can impact your appearance, depending on what treatments you have. For some people, starting to look different may trigger thoughts about what other people will think of them and how they may react to these changes. The way we look is a big part of who we are, so some people can feel self-conscious and may find these changes upsetting.

Changes to daily life and routines

The process of diagnosis, treatment and dealing with side effects, and recovery from cancer can all impact our day-to-day lives and routines. You may not be able to do some of the things you were doing before, such as work, exercise, or other activities inside or outside the home. You may also need others to help you with things. You may be thinking ‘I don’t want to lose my independence’, ‘I should be doing more than I am’, or ‘I really miss being able to do that’. When life changes we will have these thoughts as we try to make sense of and accommodate what is happening to us. 

Impact on relationships

You, your friends and your family may be thinking about the impact the cancer diagnosis and treatment may have on your relationships. You may have thoughts about whether people will treat you differently, whether you may need to be cared for by others and how you feel about this. It can sometimes feel difficult to explain what it is like to have cancer, which can make it hard to feel connected to those around you. You might also worry about your family and how they are coping. 

Sex and intimacy

You may worry about the impact of your diagnosis and treatment on your sex life and intimacy with others. This can feel difficult and uncomfortable to talk about, but is something many people experience, as it takes time to understand the changes to your body and adjust to this.

Read more about managing sex and relationships after a diagnosis > 

Ending treatment

You may have thoughts like ‘I am so relieved that is over’, ‘I hope I can start to feel more like myself soon’, or ‘I am looking forward to doing more again’. On the other hand, you may also have thoughts like ‘It’s going to feel strange not coming into hospital regularly’ or ‘What if the cancer comes back?’. You might be wondering what it will be like returning to normal life after your treatment ends and what other people may expect. You may be thinking ‘Everyone around me is moving on, but I’m stuck’. It can be hard getting others to understand that you are still adjusting and that it will take time for you to recover. 

Future scans and appointments

Almost everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer knows how nerve-wracking it is waiting for scan results, either at diagnosis, or during or after treatment. This may get a little easier as time goes on, but thoughts about scan results may always trigger these feelings.   

Living with incurable cancer

Knowing how to adjust to a life with incurable cancer can be extremely hard. You are likely to have lots of thoughts about the things you may not be able to do and thoughts about what the future may hold. Take time to notice what thoughts are feelings are showing up for you – understanding these is often the first step to getting the support you need.

Next steps to getting support

Once you understand why you are feeling a certain way, you may feel more prepared to address it. For example, if you are worried about family or friends treating you differently, you could plan to talk with them about how you want to be treated. If you have concerns about cancer returning, you could talk to your healthcare team to get a better understanding of what to expect and who you can go to with any questions. 

If you notice that the things you have tried to manage your feelings haven’t helped and you feel a bit stuck, the best thing to do is to talk to others about how you are feeling. 

Read more about ways to get support for your mental health > 

More information and support

There are lots of organisations, like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, that offer support if you are dealing with these types of feelings. Sharing how you feel or just knowing that others feel the same may give you some reassurance, as well as ways to cope. 

If you want to talk, our trained volunteers are ready to listen – call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours > 

You may also enjoy chatting with others affected by cervical cancer on our online forum .

Join our online Forum > 

Other useful organisations

There are lots of organisations that can offer expert support if you are struggling with your mental health. 

Find a therapist in your area
The following organisations have directories of accredited therapists specialising in different areas, including cancer and changes to fertility:

Macmillan Cancer Support
Provides information and support about coping with emotions during and after cancer, including via a free Support Line.
www.macmillan.org.uk
Support Line: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)

Maggie’s Centres
Offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends.
www.maggiescentres.org 

Mind
Provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
www.mind.org.uk
Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm – except for bank holidays)
Email: [email protected]

Samaritans
Offers free, confidential support online and over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
www.samaritans.org
Phone: 116 123

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 all the references we used, please contact [email protected]

"The impact of a cancer diagnosis is far reaching both personally and professionally but I feel extremely lucky"
Read Samme's story

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Date last updated: 
09 Oct 2019
Date due for review: 
01 Oct 2022

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