Home Care for Cervical Cancer
Self-treatment is not appropriate for cancer. Without medical treatment, the cervical cancer will continue to grow and spread. Eventually, vital body organs will not be able to function properly because the cancer will take their oxygen and nutrients, crowd them out, or injure them. The result is very often death.
Although self-treatment is inappropriate, there are things you can do to reduce the physical and mental stresses of cervical cancer and its treatment.
Maintaining good nutrition is one of the best things you can do. You may lose your appetite during treatment for cervical cancer. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, and sores inside the mouth.
However, if you take in enough calories and protein, you will maintain your strength and energy and better tolerate the side effects of treatment. Your cancer specialist (oncologist) or gynecologist may be able to recommend a nutritionist who can provide suggestions for keeping up your calorie and protein intake.
The following lifestyle changes may help keep you stronger and more comfortable during treatment:
- Engage in mild physical activity to keep up your energy level. Make sure it doesn't wear you out.
- Get enough rest at night, and take naps if needed.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid alcohol. You may not be able to drink alcohol with some of the medications you are taking. Be sure to ask your health care provider.
Follow-Up After Cervical Cancer Treatment
Regular pelvic exams and Pap smears are important for every woman. These tests are no less important for a woman who has been treated for precancerous changes or for cancer of the cervix.
Follow-up care should include a full pelvic exam, Pap smear, and other tests as indicated on a regular schedule recommended by your gynecologist. These precautions are necessary to allow early detection should the cancer return.
Cervical cancer treatment may cause side effects many years later. For this reason, you should continue to have regular checkups and should report any health problems that appear.
Cervical Cancer Prevention
The key to preventing invasive cervical cancer is to detect any cell changes early, before they become cancerous. Regular pelvic exams and Pap tests are the best way to do this. How often you should have a pelvic exam and Pap test depends on your individual situation, but here are guidelines:
- A Pap test is recommended starting when women reach 21 years of age.
- Combining a Pap test with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test can safely extend the interval between cervical cancer screenings from three years to five years in many women between the ages of 30-65, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
- Also according to USPSTF guidelines, HPV testing is not recommended for women in their 20s because people in that age group can have HPV infections that resolve without treatment.
- Women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they’ve had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests within the previous 10 years, according to the guidelines. But some women who have a history of a precancer should continue to be screened for at least 20 years.
- And women of any age who’ve had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix and no history of cervical cancer or precancers do not need to be screened, according to the guidelines.