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Q. Are there any alternative treatment options available for cervical cancer? Or things I could be doing in addition to standard treatment?

A.

Alternative treatment options for cancer can include a wide variety of approaches that are sometimes used in place of conventional measures of care practiced by Western practitioners, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Examples of alternative treatment options may include acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy and naturopathy. When these alternative practices are used in conjunction with conventional medicine they are often referred to as complementary medicine. To learn more, read Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s publication, Complementary Therapies to Ease the Way During Cancer Treatment and Recovery .

When considering alternative and complementary treatment for cervical cancer, it is very important to communicate with your medical team. Some alternative therapies may be contraindicated for the treatment plan your doctor has recommended. The National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) provide extensive information and sponsor clinical trials that examine complementary practices in cancer care. For more information on these trials and the current research in this area, call NCI at 1-800-4-CANCER or read their publication, Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People With Cancer.

Making decisions on the best treatment plan for your cancer can be a daunting experience. An open discussion with your doctor can facilitate a plan of action that is mutually beneficial for your overall care. For tips on effective ways to speak to your medical team, see CancerCare’s fact sheet, “Doctor, Can We Talk?“ Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team.

Q. I'd like to connect with other women who have cervical cancer. I feel like they'll understand me best. Can you tell me where I should look?

A.

Support groups are a wonderful opportunity to speak with other women diagnosed with cervical cancer. Support groups provide a safe environment to share thoughts, ideas and feelings with others in a similar circumstance. Members in a support group often feel less isolated during their cancer experience as they exchange useful information on medical issues, resources and practical concerns.

CancerCare provides online, telephone and face-to-face support groups that connect you with women diagnosed with cervical cancer. All support groups are free and led by professional oncology social workers.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) offers a Phone and E-mail Pals Program that matches cervical cancer survivors with others in a similar situation. For more information on this program, contact NCCC at 1-818-992-4242.

And finally, EyesOnThePrize.org has an email discussion group for women with gynecologic cancers.

Q. Where can I find the latest treatment and research that is being done regarding cervical cancer?

A.

Government institutions such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are reliable resources in locating information on cancer. NCI is the United States government’s agency for cancer research. It provides current information on cancer data, research programs and clinical trials on all types of cancers. You can contact NCI at 1-800-4-CANCER or www.cancer.gov. They provide a comprehensive booklet, What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Cervix.

Nonprofit organizations, like CancerCare and The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), are also resources that can provide you with individualized assistance specific to your needs. By contacting these organizations, you may be connected with individuals that can provide you with support in the form of information, education, outreach and networking regarding cervical cancer.

Specifically:

Q. What resources are available for women with cervical cancer who have no medical insurance? I was going to a specialist and my cancer was advancing. I have had no treatment since due to lack of insurance.

A.

The many challenges of being diagnosed and not having insurance are stressful and emotionally difficult. Feelings such as anger and anxiety are very common, but these should not keep you from getting treatment. Give yourself credit for seeking help, and for learning about and using available resources.

Being organized can help ease some of your anxiety. Keep a notebook with a list of organizations you contact and write down the name of the person with whom you speak, and what information they provide to you.

  • Medicaid is a jointly funded, federal-state health insurance program for people who need financial assistance for medical expenses. A current law exists that allows state Medicaid programs to provide treatment to women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
  • Contact local hospitals to see what types of free care or charity care programs they offer. Speak with a financial counselor or social worker to explain your situation. Federal law requires that non-profit hospitals provide some amount of charity care in exchange for tax-exempt status.
  • The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) provides education, legal counseling, and referrals to cancer patients and survivors concerning managed care, insurance, financial issues, job discrimination, and debt management.
  • Contact local community or religious organizations that may be able to provide guidance and resources.

Q. I am looking to connect with survivors of cervical and/or vaginal cancers who have found success in managing long-term side effects of pelvic radiation. I have been offered little in terms of treatment of after-effects and am wondering if anyone has found relief.

A.

There many ways to connect with others who are experiencing long-term side effects as a result of their cancer treatment. For many women who undergo treatment for gynecological cancers, there can be varying side effects that are short term or longer term. Having the opportunity to talk with others and share your experience may help you better cope with your side effects and learn new ways to manage them.

CancerCare offers many valuable resources to help survivors cope with post-treatment concerns. Learn about our post-treatment survivorship resources which include support groups, educational workshops, and publications. Joining a support group is a great way to share personal experiences, ease the feeling of isolation, explore new ideas, and receive helpful feedback from others.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition has an online support community which is peer-led. Additionally, EyesonthePrize.org provides support and information for women coping with gynecological cancers.

As always, you can speak with a CancerCare oncology social worker about your concerns.