Your Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center team is here to support you from diagnosis and treatment through survivorship. Our goal is to prevent cancer recurrence and help you maintain the highest quality of life possible through a variety of services – including pelvic rehabilitation and care for reproductive and sexual health. In addition, we’re here to provide expert guidance and care to support your health and well-being at every stage of your life.
When you’ve finished treatment for gynecologic cancer, it’s essential to see your doctor for follow-up appointments. These survivorship care appointments ensure you’re healing well and that cancer hasn’t returned. They include a physical exam and any necessary testing, such as blood or imaging tests. These visits also give you a chance to ask questions and let your doctor know about any changes or side effects – such as pain or menopause symptoms.
Managing gynecologic cancer treatment side effects
Treatment for cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine and endometrial cancer, and other gynecologic cancers can cause side effects. Many women with gynecologic cancer need pelvic radiation therapy, which can damage the colon, bladder, and other pelvic organs and cause side effects. We offer expert care and support to minimize symptoms and let you live your best life.
Digestive side effects
About half of all gynecologic cancer survivors have digestive problems after treatment, such as:
- Difficulty absorbing nutrients
At Sylvester, our registered dietitians design a meal plan that helps with digestion and provides all the necessary nutrients to keep you healthy. Your doctor can treat incontinence and diarrhea to ensure these symptoms don’t hold you back – and let you return to the things you enjoy.
Urinary tract problems
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause urinary tract problems, such as bladder irritation or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Our dietitians can help you make diet changes that relieve symptoms – such as drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and other substances that irritate your bladder.
Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat a UTI, but you can help prevent infections by urinating more frequently and taking showers instead of baths.
Hormone therapy side effects
Gynecologic cancer treatment – including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery – can affect the way your ovaries produce hormones. If your ovaries are removed during surgery or damaged by other treatments, it can cause early menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and reduced bone density.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), taken daily as a pill, can stop these symptoms by boosting your estrogen levels. But it may increase the risk of certain cancers returning. Your doctor will tell you about the risks and benefits so that you can make an informed choice. If HRT isn’t right for you, we offer other approaches to relieve symptoms, such as acupuncture for hot flashes.
Some types of ovarian and endometrial cancers use estrogen to grow, so your doctor may recommend hormone therapy to lower your risk of cancer recurrence. Hormone therapy works by preventing cancer cells from using estrogen.
Psychosocial side effects
Gynecologic cancer can affect how you feel about your body and sexuality. It’s natural to feel depressed, anxious, or tired during and after treatment. We understand, and we’re here for you.
Sylvester offers cancer support groups that let you share with and learn from others who understand. We can also refer you to support groups at national organizations for your specific type of cancer. Support groups offer a safe place to talk about your experiences and get advice and encouragement from others.
Your oncologist may also suggest you see a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating cancer survivors. Your therapist can help you improve your mental and sexual health after gynecologic cancer treatment.
Smoking during or after your cancer treatment affects your body’s ability to heal and increases the risk of complications after cancer surgery. It can make your treatment less effective and increase your risk for cancer treatment side effects and cancer recurrence.
At the University of Miami Health System, our BeSmokeFree program offers comprehensive support to help you stop smoking – for good. This free program is held four times weekly to make it easier to fit into busy schedules. Sessions cover strategies to quit smoking and let you hear the experiences of former smokers who’ve stopped.