I Was Just Diagnosed With Cervical Cancer. What Should I Do First?

I Was Just Diagnosed With Cervical Cancer. What Should I Do First?

When you undergo a routine Pap smear as part of your annual well-woman exam, you never expect it to have abnormal (i.e., positive) results. Your doctor assures you that abnormal Paps aren’t a sign that you have cancer, but you need some follow-up tests.

But those turned out to be abnormal, too. The pathologist identified cancerous changes in the cells on your cervix. About 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year. Now you’re one of them. What’s next?

At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, our caring and experienced OB/GYNs, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, support you through every step from cervical cancer diagnosis to treatment and, when possible, to cure. At our Jacksonville, Florida, offices, we help you navigate the choices you face during this health crisis.

If you’ve learned that you have cervical cancer, what do you do next? We’ve prepared the following brief to serve as your guide.

Follow-up on your referrals

Although we are here for you every step of the way, your OB/GYN doesn’t treat your cervical cancer. Instead, we refer you to an oncologist and oncological surgeon. Depending on the stage of your cancer, they may advise one or more therapies, such as:

Even though it’s scary to get a cancer diagnosis, you have the best chance of a cure the sooner you get treatment. 

Ask for help

Whether you’re afraid to call the specialists to make your appointments or dread showing up for treatment, ask your support network for help. A cancer diagnosis can derail your sense of safety and well-being. Now’s the time to ask for someone to hold your hand.

You may also consider joining a support group or getting counseling. You may feel overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, and anger over the unfairness of your diagnosis. Talking about your feelings with women in similar positions can help you move forward.

A counselor can be a bedrock for support but also help you see your treatment journey from another perspective. They teach you ways of reframing negative thoughts to move past self-blame or paralyzing fear.

Do not listen to negative feedback

Sometimes, when you suffer a tragedy, whether it’s a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one, you find yourself surrounded by people who respond inappropriately. They may share with you “horror stories” of women they knew who also had cervical cancer.

Or, they may try to make you (and themselves!) feel better by dredging up old, worthless platitudes, such as “it’s just part of your life’s plan” or “God has a reason for everything.” As best you can, try to ignore their unhelpful advice. Call a friend to vent. Write about the experience in your journal. But don’t take their words to heart.

The 5-year relative survival rate for all stages of cervical cancer is 67%. If the cancer is detected early, that rate jumps to 92%.  The death rate has dropped by about 50% since the 1970s, thanks to improvements in treatment and earlier detection.  

Do what you can to stay healthy and positive

Now more than ever, self-care is imperative. Even though you’ve entrusted your health to medical professionals, you also should feel free to explore complementary health practices that may support your body and mind.

Always check with your oncologist before embarking on alternative therapies because some may not be compatible with your treatments. If you don’t already have a self-care regimen in place, you may look at some practices that could help, such as:

Try to eat the most wholesome, fresh foods possible. But don’t stress out about your diet or which supplements to take. As long as you focus on whole foods and get sufficient exercise, you do your best to care for yourself.

Consider egg freezing

Tell your oncologist if you haven’t yet started or finished your family. They may be able to recommend treatments that preserve your fertility.

If not, you may wish to consider freezing your eggs. Cancer treatments usually result in infertility. Even if you have a hysterectomy, you may be able to use your eggs with a surrogate. 

Have you been diagnosed with cervical cancer, or are you due for a well-woman exam or a Pap test? Contact our supportive team in Jacksonville, Florida, today to get the help, support, and referrals you need by calling or using the convenient appointment form online.

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