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. Joining a group can provide a safe environment to share thoughts, ideas and feelings with others in a similar circumstance, and members in a support group often feel less isolated during their cancer experience. Support groups may be available face-to-face, over the telephone, or online.
CancerCare offers a free, private online support group for individuals in treatment for gynecologic cancer. This message-board style group is moderated by an oncology social worker, and is available 24/7 during the group cycle.
For individuals you have completed treatment for any diagnosis, you can consider our post-treatment online support group.
If you have a social worker at your hospital or treatment center, they are often very knowledgeable about any face-to-face groups in your local area. Often, treatment centers run their own support groups that may either be focused on a specific diagnosis or may be more mixed in composition. You can also consider “peer matching”, a service in which you would be connected to another individual who has undergone similar treatment for cervical cancer so that you can have one-on-one phone conversations. Two organizations providing this service include Cancer Hope Network and Imerman Angels.
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.
Thank you for this important question. As you have experienced, pelvic radiation can lead to some long-term side effects that can impact your quality of life, including physical discomfort as well as sexuality and intimacy concerns. Talking about these side effects with others who have experienced them can be very helpful; it provides you a space to discuss these issues with another woman who has “been there” and can be a way to receive useful suggestions and tips. If you’d like to speak one-on-one with another gynecologic cancer survivor, you can explore “peer matching”, a service where you would be matched to another survivor who is similar in age and course of treatment for individual phone conversations. Some organizations providing this matching service include Cancer Hope Network, Imerman Angels and SHARE Cancer Support.
Joining a support group can be another great way to connect with others in similar situations. CancerCare offers an online Gynecological Cancer Patient Support Group for individuals in treatment or those who have recently completed treatment. This free private, message-board style group is moderated by an oncology social worker and registration can be completed online.
You can also view the full range of CancerCare’s post-treatment resources.
I would also encourage you to speak to your medical team about the side effects you have been experiencing. Although it is true that some of the radiation side effects may be long-lasting, there may be ways to better manage or reduce the severity. Your oncologist and/or gynecologist can advise you on what options might be applicable for your individual situation.
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 800-4-CANCER or www.cancer.gov. They provide comprehensive information: Cervical Cancer Treatment.
The Foundation for Women’s Cancers has a comprehensive website that provides a good deal of information on gynecological cancer treatment, clinical trials and details on the research they are currently funding.
The American Cancer Society’s website has a Cervical Cancer section, which includes information and briefs on current cervical cancer treatment and research.
CancerCare’s publication, Treatment Update: Cervical Cancer, reviews highlights from American Society of Clinical Oncology. You can learn more about additional services CancerCare offers those who’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer (and their loved ones) in our cervical cancer website section.
If you have specific questions about your treatment plan, I would encourage you speak to your medical team who would be able to best advise based on your individual situation.
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 provides 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 800-4-CANCER or read their publication, Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People With Cancer.
If you’re considering utilizing alternative or complementary therapies, it is important to keep your medical team informed about what you are doing/taking; keeping the lines of communication open and being open about any additional therapies you are utilizing can allow you and your medical team to continue working as a team for optimal outcomes. 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.
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. Navigating treatment without insurance can feel daunting, but there are resources you can explore that may be able to help. First, I would encourage you to speak to your previous specialist and medical team about the current difficulty you are experiencing. You indicated you were receiving treatment at one point but had to stop; a social worker, nurse navigator, or someone in the finance department of the specialist’s office or treatment center may be able to help guide you. There may be local resources that can help pay for treatment, and sometimes offices will be able to work out a payment plan with you once they are aware of the situation.
I would also recommend exploring if you would be eligible for Medicaid in your state. The eligibility varies from state-to-state, and you can learn more about the program here. Often your local social services office can help with determining eligibility and submitting the application.
You can inquire about any charity care or reduced cost care you may be eligible for at local hospitals or treatment centers; public hospitals are required to provide some level of charity care, but policies can vary and you would need to check with the hospital for their specific eligibility and application process.
CancerCare provides a searchable database of cancer resources and assistance based on zip code. You can utilize the search to investigate any additional resources that may be available near you.