Living with Gynecologic Cancer

Undergoing diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic cancers can be stressful. This in turn can affect your mental health. Seeking emotional support from family and friends may alleviate stress. Bring someone you trust to your appointments to help process the information related to your diagnosis and to help with follow up. Other activities that may help with stress reduction include exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and prayer. Try to continue engagement in social activities.

Depending on how much stress you are undergoing, you may also wish to consider seeking help from mental health professionals such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. Ask us about support groups in your area.

Life Changes Following Treatment

Cancer treatment can lead to changes that affect your body in different ways including:

Menopause: Symptoms of menopause occur due to natural aging, because the ovaries are surgically removed, or because the ovaries no longer function due to chemotherapy or radiation. Immediate symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbance. Long term effects can include a higher risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Hormones are not always the best option for treatment of menopausal symptoms in women with gynecologic cancers. We can discuss which options may be best for you.

Changes in sexual health: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can affect sexual health by changing the external genital anatomy and/or affecting the vagina. Changes in body image or pain during intercourse can lead to changes in sexual desire. If these changes are bothering you, talk to us openly about these issues.  There may be ways to improve these problems.

Lymphedema: For women with gynecologic cancer, this usually presents as lower extremity swelling after the lymph nodes have been removed or if they are scarred from radiation. Treatment includes compression garments. Consultation with physical therapy for massage is also an option.

This is just a short list of the most common changes that women experience. There are many other changes that you may notice following cancer treatment. After you have completed cancer treatment, we will still see you at regular intervals. If you are experiencing a symptom related to treatment, talk to us. We may be able to help or can refer you to someone who can.