A-Z

Cervical Cancer

Messages to others about cervical cancer

Many women we interviewed used their own experience to encourage others who were facing cervical cancer to think positively and not to give up hope.

Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

The advice was not to be brave all the time and to accept support from others. One woman advised others to ask their GP for anti-depressants if they found they were not coping. Another stressed the importance of believing the information that doctors gave, not assuming things are worse than they actually are and recognising that people do survive cancer.

 

She advises accepting the support of others.

View full profile
Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 43
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think let your family spoil you. You know when somebody's feeling vulnerable like that don't, I think it's important not to sort of feel guilty about the fuss that's being made. I think if you can have a loving family who want to sort of be there for you and help you to cope with it I think that's very important. I'd say don't try, try to be too brave about it, just go with the flow of what your body is going through. Enjoy being spoilt if you've got the luxury of it. And sort of possibly, it seems a stupid thing to say enjoy it but there's so many good things can come out of being ill. Explore them and just see what other things life can offer you through it.

 

She advises talking to friends and from her own experience a bad prognosis can work out to be...

View full profile
Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 27
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
For me to talk to somebody or some people, whether its one or two friends, or a group of friends, I think you really need that support. I don't think you should try and cope with it on your own. I would definitely, definitely say that because I got an awful lot from my friends. Probably more than my family in a way because I protected my family and probably didn't tell them everything, whereas your friends you definitely do share a lot more. So I'd definitely say talk. Be positive because even though the diagnosis may be bad it doesn't always mean what it means in the beginning. It can work out to be a lot, a lot more positive than you think. 
 

She suggests positive thinking, believing the diagnosis that doctors give and recognising that...

View full profile
Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 32
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
You have got to try and be positive; I mean I wasn't at all. And I don't know how to tell people to be positive other than to try and believe what they're told. I constantly felt that they were hiding something from me. I was convinced that I was riddled with cancer and they weren't telling me because they didn't think I had long to live. I might as well be ignorant and make the most of it. Eighteen months later I know that's not true. I don't have cancer in my body and I haven't had it for eighteen months but I've wasted a lot of time being scared to death about it. 

But I advise anyone that gets into a mess like I did with it, to have people around and to see if you can get someone to stay with you in hospital. Just don't, don't be alone, that is the worst. Because often what goes on in your head, its ten times worse than what is actually going on in your body. There are still too many negative things about cancer and no one ever talks about the up sides, the people who do get better. The mythology's still there and if you are one of the people that's gone along believing it like I was, you've got to surround yourself with a lot of people who have come out the other side of it.

A couple of older woman viewed their cancer as an episode in their life which is now over. Others, who had cervical cancer several years ago, described how things had improved over time. One woman recommended getting personal effects in order to reduce any additional worries.

 

She explains that cancer was an episode in her life which is now in the past.

View full profile
Age at interview: 53
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 51
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I suppose you know if a woman is looking at this site because she's just been told she's got cervical cancer what I would say to them is it's definitely not a death sentence you know if they've caught it now and you know you're going to go in for the treatment and everything then the chances are that in a years time you'll feel exactly the same way as I do now, that you know it was something that happened, it was a part of your life but it's not, it's over, it's done with and get on with the rest of your life.
 

She stresses that things get better with time.

View full profile
Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 34
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
But its like when somebody dies, it gets better. And I hardly, I think about it a little now but hardly at all really. Its not, you do get a balance and things get better with time but don't expect within a year that your, everything's going to be fine and you're going to be positive. I think everybody's different and you mustn't expect yourself to too quickly to get back to normal. And you may do a few extreme things but you'll get back to your balance and your routine.

Many said that there had been positive aspects to having cancer (see 'Living with cervical cancer').

Information

Many women encouraged others not be afraid or embarrassed to ask their doctors questions and to get as much information about their illness and treatment as they felt comfortable with. Several said they had found it helpful to take a friend or relative with them to their appointments. Others recommended talking to other patients which many had found supportive.

 

She encourages women to ask their doctors questions and to take a friend or relative to...

View full profile
Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 36
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And don't be afraid to ask questions. It's your body at the end of the day, ask questions. If you don't understand what's being said to you ask what that means. I would always advise women to take somebody with them, whether it be their partner, a friend, somebody to go along with them who can also listen to get another viewpoint. Because once, if you go into a state of shock or whatever, you don't hear what's being said. It goes straight over your head and in my case I just picked out the worst bits. I'd didn't hear the fact that I could be treated and so on, and what was going to happen, I didn't hear any of that. So another viewpoint is very useful. Write questions down. If something occurs to you write it down and when you go to see your consultant ask the questions.

Treatment

A few encouraged others to find out all the available treatment options if they felt what they were being offered wasn't right for them. Some women recommended getting a second opinion if they felt unhappy with the treatment choices.

 

She advises questioning doctors about symptoms or treatment if you have doubts about the advice...

View full profile
Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 36
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And if you don't feel comfortable with some of the things they're telling you, with some of the treatments that are being offered ask why they feel that is the appropriate treatment. Are there any alternatives to that treatment? What will happen if you don't have that treatment? Many women just take a doctor's or a consultant's word as being that's, just accept it. I've learnt along the way that you don't have to just accept it, they're human. I know that I accepted my locum's word that I was going through an early menopause. And if I'd perhaps not been as na've and more informed at the time I might have been more able to say "Are you sure, are you sure that perhaps I didn't ought to be referred to the hospital?" But at the time I didn't know and at the time I did not feel able to question a doctor. But don't be afraid to ask questions. They do know more about the body's working than the average person but at the end of the day if something is not right for you personally, if it's not normal for you personally, then this is what the doctors and the medical profession are there for, to investigate abnormalities in your normal self.

 
Text only
Read below

She recommends getting a second opinion about the treatments available and stresses the...

View full profile
Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 31
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think women shouldn't be frightened to ask for a second opinion and I think they should make their feelings on what they want to have done to them and what they want in life. I mean if a person is diagnosed with a tumour and they don't really want children then that's fine. But if you really, really want children and you're told you can't, then I think you should make it known and that should be taken into consideration. I think people should be a lot more open when they talk to consultants and doctors. I think people are frightened because they think they know it all and that they should be able to do what they want and I don't think that's the case. I think people should voice their opinions a lot more and to certainly insist on second opinions because somebody else might have a good idea. They don't know it all.

Another stressed that treatment plans are designed for individual patients and women should not feel they were being given a lesser treatment if it was different to others.

A few who had used complementary approaches recommended it to others, in conjunction with their medical treatment and after discussing it with their doctor. One woman who had radio-chemotherapy encouraged others to try to eat well during their treatment because she had found this had kept her strong and aided her recovery.

Some women who had had surgery encouraged others to take time to recover from their hysterectomy or trachelectomy and not to push themselves too much. One young woman gives words of encouragement to others who need to have a pelvic exenteration.

 

Recovery from pelvic exenteration is hard work but you can live a full life afterwards.

View full profile
Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It's hard to say 'don't worry' because you will worry you know it's a major operation and even when you go down you don't know if they're going to be able to do it or not, you could still be terminal and I know how that feels. I've been there. But if the exenteration is successful you can still live a full life, you can be normal. Recovering isn't easy, it's hard work and you do go through a real rough time but it's certainly worth it because it gives you your life. And it does cure you.

Symptoms and Cervical Screening Tests

Women who discovered their illness by having bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse encouraged others to seek medical advice quickly if they experienced any irregular bleeding. Irregular bleeding can also be a symptom of many other things such as fibroids, but it is important to get any changes checked by a doctor.

Several women encouraged others to know their own body, to trust themselves if they felt something was wrong, to question their doctor and ask to be seen by a specialist if they felt their concerns were not being dealt with.

 

She advises asking to be referred to a specialist if you're not happy with what your doctor is...

View full profile
Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 32
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think the earlier that you can catch it obviously the better and so if you have any worries and your doctor says 'Oh no, you know, you're basically a hypochondriac, don't be so silly,' then I think, I suppose I wish I had been much stronger in my own mind and thought, OK I don't like what you're telling me I shall go somewhere else. Instead I just thought well that's the doctor and they're telling me so I must listen to them because they must be right, which I'm sure in general they are. Well if you still feel that it isn't right then maybe you should look elsewhere or get somebody else to check you out, just not put up with so much of being told everything's fine.

Women who discovered they had cancer after having an abnormal cervical screening test result stressed the importance of having regular cervical screening tests because it had saved their lives.

 
Text only
Read below

She explains why regular smear tests are important.

View full profile
Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 42
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Go for the smear test because if there is anything wrong it is far better to catch it early. If its not caught early its better to know as soon as possible. It increases your chance of survival and when you get the diagnosis you do want to survive. Its all very well saying 'Oh well you've gotta go when you've gotta go,' or these clich's that people come out with. But when you actually think you might die then you find out you want to live. And its, don't take those chances.

Donate to healthtalk.org

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.

donate
Previous Page
Next Page