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Cervical Cancer

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is where the lower part of the uterus meets the vagina.

What increases my risk of cervical cancer?

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection

  • Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)

  • Smoking

  • Long-term use of birth control pills

  • Giving birth to more than one child

  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) when your mother was pregnant with you

  • Weakened immune system from HIV infection or medicine for an organ transplant

What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding after sex

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge between your normal monthly periods

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge after menopause

  • Low back pain

How is cervical cancer diagnosed?

Your caregiver will do a pelvic exam. He will feel for problems with your cervix, uterus, and ovaries. You may also need any of the following:

  • A Papanicolaou (Pap) test is done during a pelvic exam to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. Cells are collected and sent to a lab for tests.

  • A colposcopy is a procedure where your caregiver uses a small scope with a light to look more closely at your cervix and vagina.

  • A biopsy is a small sample of tissue removed from your cervix. It may be taken during a colposcopy. The sample is sent to a lab and tested for abnormal cells.

  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that takes pictures of your abdomen and pelvis. The pictures may show the location and size of the cancer. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • An MRI takes pictures of your abdomen and pelvis to show changes to organs and blood vessels. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is cervical cancer treated?

Treatment may decrease your symptoms or stop the cancer from spreading. Ask your caregiver for more information about the treatment that you need. Your treatment may change if your cervical cancer grows or spreads:

  • Trachelectomy is surgery to remove the cervix and upper vagina. It may be an option if you have early stage cervical cancer and want to give birth to a child in the future.

  • Hysterectomy is a surgery to remove your uterus. Your fallopian tubes and ovaries may also be removed. Caregivers may also remove some nearby lymph nodes.

  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of x-rays to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy is medicine that kills cancer cells.

How can I care for myself during treatment?

  • Eat extra protein and calories. Foods may taste different during cancer treatment. You may not feel like eating, and you may lose weight. Ask for more information about the best eating plan for you. Do the following to help your body get the protein and calories it needs:

    • Eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours.

    • If you have stomach discomfort during the night, eat your last meal 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed. Raise the head of your bed, or sleep with your head up on pillows.

    • Eat when you feel hungry. Vary your foods, and eat what you want to eat.

    • Ask about adding nutritional bars and drinks to your eating plan.

    • Drink most of your liquids between rather than with meals. Liquids can make you feel full faster and prevent you from eating enough calories.

  • Exercise. Ask your caregiver or oncologist about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise prevents muscle loss and can help improve your appetite.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have new problems eating or drinking, or you have lost weight without trying.

  • You have diarrhea, constipation, or stomach pain.

  • You have swelling in your abdomen or legs.

  • You have to urinate urgently and often, or you cannot hold your urine.

  • You cannot urinate.

  • You have difficulty or pain with sex.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You are bleeding from your vagina or rectum.

  • There is blood in your urine or bowel movement, or your bowel movements are black.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough, or you cough up blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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