Cervical cancer treatment side effects
All types of treatment for cervical cancer have side effects, depending on the stage of the cancer and the kind of treatment used. Women react differently to their cervical cancer treatment, too, based on their own physiology, age, health, and personal circumstances, and some may experience more or less severe side effects than others.
Having major surgery such as a hysterectomy or related procedures can leave you tired for weeks to months. Following your doctor’s instructions as you recover and working to live the healthiest life you can, including reducing stress, can help.
In general, radiation treatment often causes fatigue, stomach upsets and diarrhea, skin irritation, and soreness in the vagina. Pelvic radiation can also result in menstrual changes and, sometimes, early menopause.
Chemotherapy is well-known for causing fatigue, hair loss, and lack of appetite. It can also trigger hot flashes, vaginal dryness, vaginal tightness, and disrupted menstrual cycles.
The most common side effects of targeted therapy for cervical cancer include elevated blood pressure, feeling tired, and loss of appetite.
Because cervical cancer treatment involves the area of the body containing the female sex organs, side effects may impact fertility and your sex life. It’s important to be open with your cancer healthcare team about your side effects and to discuss your treatment and possible sexual side effects with your partner, the American Cancer Society advises.
However, even when cervical cancer treatment causes pelvic discomfort, vaginal dryness, and menopause-type symptoms like hot flashes, take heart knowing these problems will likely improve over time and, in the meantime, your doctor can provide advice and therapies to help you cope.
Clinical trials for cervical cancer treatment
For some women with cervical cancer, the National Cancer Institute says participating in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or they may be the first to receive a new treatment being tested to halt the cancer.
Some cervical cancer clinical trials only include women who haven’t started treatment, and other trials target patients whose cancer has not been stopped by past treatments. There are also clinical trials underway to test medications that may stop cervical cancer that has been treated from recurring, according to the NCI. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. To see if you are a good candidate for a clinical trial, talk to you doctor and visit the NCI website for more information.
March 18, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN