Thumbnail image of: Female Pelvis: Illustration

Cancer of the Cervix Discharge Information

What is cancer of the cervix?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus and menstrual blood comes from the uterus, through the cervix.

Cancer of the cervix (cervical cancer) is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the cervix. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, it is still cervical cancer, and is called metastatic cervical cancer.

There are different types and stages of cervical cancer that are diagnosed based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing your type and stage of cervical cancer helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat cervical cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

The exact cause of cervical cancer is not known. However, women with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to have cervical cancer.

The main risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many types of HPV and they can infect different parts of the body. Some types infect the genital area and can develop into cancer. Possible risk factors for HPV are:

  • Having sex when you were a teen
  • Having more than 1 sex partner or having a partner who has had many other partners

You may have an increased risk of cervical cancer if:

  • You are not having regular Pap and HPV tests to look for abnormal, precancerous cells in the cervix or HPV. The cells in the cervix start to change before they become cancerous. Early detection and treatment of precancerous cells and HPV can keep the cells from becoming cancer.
  • Your mother, sister, or daughter had cervical cancer.
  • You have a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI).
  • You smoke.
  • You have a weakened immune system–for example, because you are taking immunosuppressive drugs or because you have AIDS.
  • You have used birth control pills for many years.
  • Being exposed to DES when your mother was pregnant. DES, or diethylstilbestrol, is a medicine that in years past was given to some women to prevent miscarriage.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has advanced. How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible or manage other treatments you may need.

Management

  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you are to take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
  • Your provider may also prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement
    • Help your immune system fight cancer
    • Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment
    • Relieve the symptoms of menopause if your ovaries were removed
  • If you have had abdominal surgery, to care for your incision:
    • Keep your surgery site clean.
    • If you are told to change the dressing on your incision, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • If you have had a hysterectomy:
    • Do not do any heavy lifting or otherwise strain the belly muscles for 4 to 6 weeks.
    • If you were having menstrual periods before the surgery, you will no longer have them after the operation.
    • You cannot become pregnant.
    • If your ovaries were removed, menopause starts right away.
  • Do not put anything in your vagina, including tampons, or have sex until your provider says it is okay.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or and outpatient clinic.

Appointments

  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need. Testing may include:
    • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
    • X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest and bones to check for cancer
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin sections of the cervix, uterus, and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin sections of the cervix, uterus, and other areas where the cancer may have spread
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking a pad more than once an hour)
  • Trouble emptying your bladder
  • Vaginal discharge with a bad odor or itching
  • If you have had abdominal surgery, signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
    • The area around the wound is more red or painful
    • The wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
    • You have chills or muscle aches

For more information:

Contact national and local organizations such as:

  • American Cancer Society, Inc.
    Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
    Web site: http://www.cancer.org
  • National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service
    Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)
    Web site: http://www.cancer.gov
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-11-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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