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Coping with cervical cancer

Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope with a diagnosis of cervical cancer.

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.

Support groups

NHS Choices has a service that tells you about local information and support.

Physical problems

Cervical cancer and its treatment can cause physical problems that may affect how you feel about yourself.

Your treatment may mean that you can no longer become pregnant. This can be very difficult to cope with if you were hoping to have children in the future. Even if you had already been through the menopause, having surgery to remove your womb can still be very upsetting.

Your doctor will talk to you about how treatment may affect your fertility and what the options are. It might be possible to store your eggs or embryos before treatment starts.

If you haven't already been through the menopause and you have an operation that includes removing your ovaries, you will have an early menopause. This can cause hot flushes and sweats. Your nurse will talk to you about how to cope with the symptoms.

Some treatments may cause tiredness. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.

You usually get back to normal energy levels between 6 and 12 months after treatment. But up to a third of women with cervical cancer complain of tiredness 2 years after treatment.

The physical changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

Coping practically

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting early help with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Last reviewed: 
29 Sep 2017
  • Cervical cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    C Marth and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2017. Volume 28, Supplement 4

  • Overview of approach to cervical cancer survivors
    LR Duska
    UpToDate website, accessed September 2017

  • Cancer and its Management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita , TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

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