January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Because it is the third most common type of cancer for women worldwide, affecting over 12,000 American women annually, there is no better time to discuss ways you can prevent a recurrence of cervical cancer and options for support.
Prevention The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get an annual Pap smear. It is imperative that you see your gynecologist regularly so that early signs of cervical cancer can be detected and treated immediately. Please schedule your annual gynecological exam, and ask your preferred provider specific questions as they apply to you.
Recurrence The first question many women ask after being treated for cervical cancer is, “What are the chances that it will come back?” In fact, recurrence of cervical cancer can be drastically reduced with regular Pap smears. Detecting cervical cancer early on allows for an easier and quicker treatment. Most recurrences can be treated with radiation, but only if the original cancer was not treated with radiation. If radiation was already used, your physician can suggest other treatment options.
To reduce your risk of recurrence, it’s best to live the healthiest lifestyle possible. Smoking makes it five times more likely that you will get cervical cancer, so avoiding smoking, as well as excess consumption of alcohol, will help keep your cervix healthier. A diet high in fiber and low in fat will also help. All of these habits, as well as regular exercise, will reduce your chances of a recurrence.
Support In addition to the support provided at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center, there are a variety of support groups and membership organizations that encourage women to come together to discuss and learn about cervical cancer. Below are just a few that may help during your treatment and recovery.
The National Cervical Cancer Coalition is a “global initiative against HPV and cervical cancer.” The organization has been helping women with cervical cancer and their friends and families for over 15 years. Visit them at www.nccc-online.org to become a member, sign-up for the newsletter and begin receiving support.
Cancer Support Hotline is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and operated by social workers specializing in cancer patients. It is free to call for support and guidance from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. Calls are anonymous and patients are encouraged to call for whatever reason necessary. Call 1-800-332-8615 or visit their LiveHelp online chat at www.cancer.gov.
Daily Strength provides users with a comprehensive list of support groups in their specific area. With numerous cervical cancer groups, this can be an asset to finding the support group that is right for you. Visit them at www.dailystrength.org to view full listings