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The long term consequences of cervical cancer and its treatment

20 September, 2017
Radiotherapy

A report published today says that "far higher than anticipated numbers of women" who have received treatment, including radiotherapy, for cervical cancer are affected by "multiple, long term consequences."

The study, by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, claims that "many women are coping without support or treatment for issues including changes to bowel and bladder function, pain, bone problems, negative impact on sex life and depression."

The trust says that the research is based on the largest known dataset of women affected by cervical cancer.

Other findings are:

  • 88% of respondents have experienced at least one, almost two-thirds at least three, and a quarter at least six physical long term consequences as a result of treatment
  • High numbers said their emotional (75%) and physical (70%) needs had not been fully met
  • A significant amount affected by physical problems had not spoken to a doctor, often putting up with bone problems (64%), lymphoedema (60%), pain (44) and urinary problems (42)
  • Women reported simply accepting the conditions, being unsure of where to seek help, not wanting to bother anyone and being fearful of finding out what was wrong. Others reported being told there was nothing that could be done to help them.

Mental health issues following treatment are more prominent among young women, however across all ages the emotional and psychological impact of cervical cancer is being neglected, according to the trust.

Rebecca Shoosmith, the charity's deputy chief executive and head of support services, said: "We are urging greater recognition of the far reaching and long lasting problems a cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment can bring.

"We want to see the introduction of a national tariff for the long term consequences of cancer to ensure they are recognised as part of the post treatment care pathway and for the national metric of quality of life, currently being piloted for more common cancers, to be swiftly rolled out to less common cancers to ensure the needs of those living with and beyond cancer are not neglected."

Download the report.

This study follows an earlier report, Cervical cancer stories: diagnosis, care, treatment and life beyond, published by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust in December 2016.

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