Don’t Let Cervical Cancer Get You Down

Cervical cancer patient quality of life can improve with support

(RxWiki News) Kicking cervical cancer to the curb takes an emotional and physical toll. It may take a little time to figure out how to improve the quality of life for the first couple years after surgery.

A recent study followed a group of women after having surgery for cervical cancer.

The results of the study showed that anxiety symptoms improved for most women, but menopausal symptoms and serious water retention and tissue-swelling problems increased over 2 years.

"Talk to a therapist about your emotions."

Giovanna Mantegna, from the Psycho-Oncology Service at Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy, worked with a team of gynecologic oncologists to look at quality of life in women who beat cervical cancer at least 2 years ago.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 227 women who had undergone surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, pelvic lymph nodes and cervix, or a radical hysterectomy. Women with more advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis, 54 percent, also had chemotherapy.

The researchers asked women about quality of life issues 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after surgery. Questions were included about anxiety, depression, sexual activity, body image and menopausal symptoms.

After the first 3 months, anxiety scores dropped for women in both groups and continued to drop over the course of 2 years. At the time of surgery, 26 percent of women with early stage diagnosis had high levels of anxiety, which dropped to 14 percent after 3 months, and 12 percent after 2 years.

At the time of surgery, 22 percent of women with late-stage diagnosis had high levels of anxiety, with dropped to 15 percent after 3 months and remained steady for 2 years.

Depression scores remained stable over the course of the study. Sexual activity scores increased 14 percent for early stage and 6 percent for late stage women over the course of 2 years.

Women who had undergone chemotherapy reported 8 percent lower scores on questions about their body image over the 2 years of the study.

Menopausal symptoms worsened by 14 percent in the early stage group and 16 percent in the late-stage group over the course of the study.

Lymphedema symptoms, which is severe water retention and tissue swelling, were present in 20 percent of women at the time of surgery and 27 percent 2 years after surgery.

The authors concluded that even though high levels of anxiety improved over time, more than 10 percent of cervical cancer patients might still have high anxiety 2 years after surgery.

Although, the authors noted, the 10-15 percent improvement from the anxiety scores around the time of surgery did show the capacity of some of the women to cope with their circumstances.

The authors recommended healthcare professionals work to improve the negative impact of menopausal symptoms and lymphedema on quality of life in cervical cancer patients.

This study was published in March in BMC Cancer. No outside funding was used for this project. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
March 21, 2013