Advanced stage cervical cancer is cancer that has spread outside of the pelvis or has come back after treatment. Unfortunately, advanced cervical cancer can’t usually be cured. But, treatment might control it, help symptoms, and improve quality of life for some time.
This article gives you some guidance on how to manage and care for advanced stage cervical cancer.
The stages of cervical cancer
There are typically four stages of cervical cancer. A ‘stage’ helps determine things like the size of the cancer and whether or not it has spread.
- Stage one: the cancer is found only in the cervix, which is the neck of your womb. The main treatment for this stage is surgery but some people may need chemoradiotherapy, too.
- Stage two: the cancer has spread outside of the cervix and into surrounding tissues. Treatment is often a combination of chemoradiotherapy and sometimes surgery.
- Stage three: the cancer has spread into the structures around it or into the lymph nodes in the pelvis or abdomen. Treatment is usually chemoradiotherapy.
- Stage four: the cancer has spread to the bladder, back passage, or further away. The main treatments are chemotherapy with a targeted cancer drug, surgery, radiotherapy or symptom control.
Advanced stage cervical cancer symptoms
Coping with symptoms of advanced cervical cancer can be upsetting. The exact symptoms will depend on the part of your body the cancer has spread to (e.g., bladder, bowel, stomach, etc.).
Symptoms of advanced stage cervical cancer can include:
- Vaginal bleeding,
- Blood in your urine,
- Swollen ankles, legs, and feet,
- Pain in your back or tummy,
- Changes to your bladder or bowel habits,
- Loss of appetite,
- Weight loss,
- Extreme tiredness,
- Brown vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant.
Advanced stage cervical cancer treatment
Your medical professionals will discuss your test results, diagnosis, and medical history to decide which treatments are best for you.
Treatment for advanced stage cervical cancer is usually decided on a case-by-case basis. Several things are considered, such as:
- Where the cervical cancer has spread
- Which treatments you have already had
- Your general health and fitness
- Your preferences.
It’s important that you’re involved in any decisions about your treatment. You need to know and understand all the information about your treatment, including the benefits and risks. It can be very difficult to make a decision about treatment when you have advanced cervical cancer. Your options may be limited or, if you have already had treatment, you may feel exhausted at the idea of going through it again. Don’t be afraid to open up about how you are feeling so your medical team can factor this into discussions.
Some possible treatment options include:
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy: cervical cancer that has come back after treatment may not spread outside of the pelvis. It may be treated with radiotherapy or a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiation), depending on which treatments you have had before.
- Pelvic exenteration: cervical cancer that has come back after treatment and spread outside of the pelvis may be treated with surgery. The surgery removes the organs in your pelvis as well as some of the surrounding areas. It is called pelvic exenteration.
- Avastin: if advanced cervical cancer can’t be treated with the aim of getting rid of it, you may have treatment to help control it or help with any symptoms. This treatment is usually chemotherapy that is given alongside a type of drug called Avastin (bevacizumab).
Caring for someone with advanced cervical cancer
A diagnosis of advanced cervical cancer can be frightening. It’s important to allow your loved one time to process it and lend a supportive ear while they think about how their life might look moving forward.
Medical professionals might use terms like ‘incurable’ or ‘palliative’. This can be confusing and leave people feeling scared about the future.
A few tips for being as supportive as possible when your loved one is diagnosed with cancer include:
- Listen: try to listen without being too upbeat. Positivity is fine, but it’s important to let your loved one feel what they need to feel. Being able to sit with a loved one while they share their feelings is one of the most significant contributions you can offer.
- Support your loved one’s treatment decisions: while sharing the decision-making is fine, ultimately it’s your loved one’s body that bears the impact of cancer.
- Remember yourself: as a caregiver, you might take on tasks such as driving to appointments, providing physical and emotional care, and keeping on top of household tasks. It’s important to take time for yourself to process what’s happening and allow yourself time to relax when possible. The risk of burnout is much higher for those providing caregiving responsibilities.
- Stay connected: cancer treatment can be lengthy. What’s more, the cancer journey continues past the last day of treatment. People with cancer often remark that friends and family “don’t call anymore” after the initial crisis of diagnosis. Checking in regularly over the long haul is both helpful and meaningful for the person living with cancer.
- Be there: this could be something as simple as sitting with your loved one during treatments. Do whatever works for you both, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
How live-in care can support your loved one with advanced stage cervical cancer
Receiving care for advanced stage cervical cancer in the comfort and familiarity of your own home provides many benefits, such as:
- Relaxing at home with your own belongings around you,
- The ability to keep your independence and freedom to live life as you wish,
- Help with medication management and treatment,
- Nutritional support and meal planning,
- Relief from household chores such as cleaning and laundry,
- Lowered risk of infection,
- Companionship and emotional support.
Mumby’s live-in care for cervical cancer patients
Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis can be one of the toughest things a whole family has to face in life. At Mumby’s, we understand the emotional and practical challenges that you may be going through. We offer compassionate cancer live-in care and practical support for you to live a good quality lifestyle in the comfort of your home and surrounded by the people and things you love.
We strive to provide a well-matched carer who can chat about shared interests or memories to boost morale. What’s more, our carers give highly personalised and flexible support when needed whilst allowing the space that you and your family need.