Managing side effects
All treatments for vaginal cancer can have side effects. Some side effects go away quickly; others can take weeks, months or even years to improve. Your treatment team will discuss possible side effects with you before your treatment starts.
Vaginal cancer and its treatment can sometime lead to long-term, life-changing side effects, such as changes to how the vulva and vagina look and feel, bladder changes, lymphoedema, menopause and impact on sexuality.
Learn more about:
- Common treatment side effects
- Dealing with the emotional impact
- Changes to the vulva and vagina
- Bladder changes
- Impact on sexuality
Common treatment side effects
Let your treatment team know about any symptoms or side effects you have. They may be able to suggest ways to reduce or manage any discomfort.
|surgery||fatigue; scar tissue; difficulty urinating; lymphoedema (if lymph nodes removed); sexual problems; trouble controlling the flow of urine (urinary incontinence); altered urinary stream; bowel changes|
|radiation therapy||fatigue; skin reactions (dry, itchy and tender skin, peeling skin); changes to the vagina (dryness, shortening, narrowing); bladder and bowel changes; menopause; urinary incontinence or having to urinate more often; lymphoedema; sexual problems|
|chemotherapy||fatigue; nausea; increased risk of infection|
Dealing with the emotional impact
How you might feelIt is common to feel shocked and upset about having cancer in one of the most intimate areas of your body. It is natural to have a wide variety of emotions, including anger, fear, anxiety, sadness and resentment. Everyone has their own ways of coping – there is no right or wrong way.
Talk to someoneIt can help to share how you’re feeling about the diagnosis and treatment side effects with a counsellor or psychologist. Ask your doctor for a referral. For support, you can also call 13 11 20.
For more on this, see Emotions and cancer.
Adjusting to changes to your bodyChanges to your body can affect your self-image and sense of identity. It takes time to adjust. Try to see yourself as a whole person (body, mind and personality), instead of focusing on the parts that have changed.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Gemma Busuttil, Radiation Therapist, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Ming-Yin Lin, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Lisa Mackenzie, Clinical Psychologist Registrar, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; Anne Mellon, CNC – Gynaecological Oncology, HNE Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Dr Archana Rao, Gynaecological Oncologist, Senior Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer and Blood Disorders, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Angela Steenholdt, Consumer; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD.
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