Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Guest post: Cervical Cancer and Radiation: How They Affect the Body

Cervical Cancer and Radiation: How They Affect the Body

By Leslie Vandever

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occur in the cells lining the cervix, the lower part of the
womb (uterus). It connects to the vagina, or birth canal.
There are several risk factors for cervical cancer, including genetics, smoking, a weakened
immune system, many sexual partners, early sexual activity, and some sexually transmitted
diseases (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS.
But the most dangerous risk factor is the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is actually a
large group of common viruses, many which cause warts. Transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or
sexual activity, HPV usually has no symptoms. Having it along with other risk factors can make
cervical cancer more likely. Most women who get HPV clear it naturally from their systems
without a problem, and without developing cervical cancer.
The best way to avoid cervical cancer is to have regular gynecological checkups, including PAP
smears to detect cellular changes early, when successful treatment is more likely. In addition,
both women and men should have the HPV vaccine, which greatly reduces the chance for

How is Cervical Cancer Treated?

How cervical cancer is treated depends on the stage the cancer has reached and any other health
problems you might have. They include:
• hysterectomy
• radiation therapy
• chemotherapy
Hysterectomy, or the removal of the uterus, cervix, and cancer cells, is the main treatment
for the early stages of cervical cancer. If the cancer has invaded to a depth of more than 3
millimeters, doctors perform a radical hysterectomy, which includes the removal of the cervix,
uterus, part of the vagina, and lymph nodes in the area. Hysterectomies often cure cervical cancer
and prevent its recurrence.

Radiation therapy focuses radioactivity near the cervical cancer cells to destroy them using
an external beam, or internally using with objects filled with radioactive material. Doctors may
combine external and internal radiation, use it before or after surgery, or both.

Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful chemical drugs to destroy cervical cancer cells.
Used alone or in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs are injected into a vein
and travels throughout the body, destroying fast-growing cells.
Effects of Radiation Therapy on the Body

While it destroys cervical cancer cells, radiation therapy can also have unpleasant side effects.
Usually, they go away not long after therapy ends, but sometimes they’re permanent. They
Diarrhea—soft, loose, or watery stools—may occur during radiation therapy. Radiation harms
cancer cells, but it also harms healthy cells in the pelvis and abdomen, including those in the
large and small bowels.

Nausea and vomiting occur for the same reason as diarrhea during radiation therapy. It may be
mild or harsh depending on how much radiation, how much of your body is within the radiated
area, and whether you’re receiving chemotherapy as well.
Fatigue—feeling mildly to extremely tired—is a common side-effect of radiation therapy. There
are several factors involved, including anemia, anxiety, stress, depression, infection, your age,
level of health and activity, and how you felt before radiation started. It can last from six to 12
weeks after radiation has ended.

Sexual and fertility changes can result from radiation therapy. It can change hormone
production and levels that affect sexual desire, cause pain or discomfort during sex, vaginal
dryness, burning, or itching; vaginal stenosis; and symptoms of menopause. Radiation can also
affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant during or after therapy.

Urinary and bladder changes may result from radiation therapy as well. It may affect the
healthy cells of the bladder, causing burning or pain during or after urination, frequent, urgent
need to urinate; incontinence; cystitis; and other symptoms.
Skin changes and hair loss may occur in the radiated area; it causes skin to break down and die.
Your skin may become red and swollen; itch intensely; become dry and peel; or form sores or

For more information about cancer or other health-related issues, click here.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of
experience. She lives in Northern California.

• Cervical Cancer. (2013, June 28) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://
• Cervical Cancer. (2013, October 30) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on October 15,
2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000893.htm
• Cervical Cancer. (n.d.) American Cancer Society. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://
• Radiation Therapy to the Pelvis. (2014, May 2) American Cancer Society. Retrieved
on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/
treatment types/radiation/understandingradiationtherapyaguideforpatientsandfamilies/
• What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer. (2012, March 29) National Cancer
Institute. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/
• Side Effects of Pelvic Radiography in Woman. (2013, March 1) McMillan Cancer Support.
Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/
• Radiation Side Effects and Ways to Manage Them. (2007, April 20) National Cancer
Institute. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/

'Thanks to Leslie for a great post and bring more awareness to cervical cancer and the devastating effects.

More later -

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Last week started BAD and ended Good

What Fatigue does to me:  On Monday, I took the triplets and a friend school supply shopping and to eat.  That took 4 hours and I was worn out.  I had planned on one more stop but couldn't make it.  Tuesday morning, Mom, the triplets and the friend went up to their new school to get schedules, gym clothes etc. 

I feel asleep Tuesday afternoon.  Came to a couple of times but did not do some very important things.  I had to get up Wed. morning for my dressing change for my mediport.  I was too tired to do anything but go back to sleep.  I missed my feed bag, fluids and morphine.  Morphine slows down the diarrhea but does not completely stop it and anti-diarrhals do zip, nada.  My kids did not try to wake me or call my Mom.  Gotta teach them that. 

I tried to get out of bed Thursday morning.  I knew the diarrhea was coming but could get there in time.  Major blowout.  I called my mom.  She came over to help me clean up and to hook me up to my feedbag.  I had another major blowout while she was here.  I felt like I had been run over by a Mac Truck.

By Thursday evening, I was feeling better after getting my feedbag and other fluids in me.  But it took till Friday to come alive.  I HATE  when the fatigue is so bad that it keeps me from taking care of myself and family.  I did make it to a lunch date with two of my best friends.  I had some soup broth and iced tea - made me queasy.  I lasted as long as I could but knew when to wave the white flag.

I hate being sick.  I know my limits and try to only do one thing a week.  If I do more it wipes me out.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summertime catch-up

Hope all of you are having a good summer!

Let's see - for me: 

The Social Security Admin almost gave me a heart attack.  When you are receiving benefits, you get reviewed either each year, every three years or every 7 years.  I am on the 3 year cycle.  I have no issue being reviewed and think it is a critical step in the process.  For me, I can give you a plethora of reasons why I am not able to work much less set up a lunch date (I don't eat much and it is usually soup - because food goes right through me) or I am so fatigued I can barely move.  So at first, I was denied!  Went into panic mode.  Then I was approved.  What cracks me up is that they say it takes 3 to 4 months to complete the review - however, they don't send you the paperwork to start the review until 2 months out.  Do the math people!

The kids, one of Sarah's friends and my mom went to my families' ranch a couple of weeks ago.  I made sure the kids and myself were packed and loaded up my vehicle.  Mom came here and put her things in my car and we were off.  Didn't realize I left my clothes here.  I slept most the ride there.  Once we got to our rooms at Fort Clark Springs, I went to bed and the girls and I slept until after 4!  Not sure what time the girls went to bed.  That is what the packing did to me - wiped me out.  I have learned to not go to more than one appointment a day.  I just can't do it.

Not sure if I posted this already but here goes:  had a PET scan from skull to mid-thigh.  No cancer - thank you God.  It is just all the cancer side effects that kick my tush.

Kids left yesterday with their dad for a week.  They are flying to PA today.  They will have so much fun and I get a quiet week.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

A little of this; a little of that

It has been way too long since my last post.  But, I have a pretty good excuse: I have been severely depressed.  Having supplemental Medicare insurance doesn't make it easy to find someone to help with your brain.  So I've been in a constant state of funk until recently.  Thank God my mom has been around to help.

Went for a PET scan this previous Friday.  Just did the scan to make sure nothing new has cropped up.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Kids are out of school on Thursday starting at noon.  Summer already!  So not ready for it :(

Have a fun Summer!

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 1st was hard

I needed to get a new medi-port and have the old one taken out.  For those who may not know what a medi-port is:  it is like a disk with a soft middle and has a cath line that goes thru a vein up your neck and down to the middle of your chest.  The disk is put underneath your skin on your chest.  It is used for my feed bags and blood draws.

I had to get a new one because my old one wouldn't allow blood to be drawn out but would allow fluids to go in.  I was supposed to be in a twilight state - didn't happen.  I felt all the local anesthesia shots, cuts and cath line being threaded thru my vein.  Glad to have a new one but it was hell.

Learned a couple of new things:  when you see the draping around where they are going to do surgery - it is sticky so it adheres to your skin and if you have ever had an operation or procedure, you know how cold an operating room is - they have a heater (first time I knew about these) that they can put at your feet to help keep you warm.  I'd rather not know these things but I thought they were interesting tidbits.

Towards the end of the procedure, I was sweating bullets from the pain and the heater.  I had them turn the heater off and take off the 5 blankets they had on me.  I was still sweating bullets.

The meds must have kicked in as I woke up in recovery - freezing cold and sleepy.  Mom asked me if I wanted to sleep some more but it was getting late and needed to get home for the kids.  I had to negotiate with the radiologist as she wanted me to stay flat for 3 hours!  I told her I could do that at home.     

Happy to have a new port that they can get blood out of instead of sticking me 3-6 times to get a vein that works.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

In hiding

Being crazy isn't easy.  I have mentioned before that I have been diagnosed as bipolar.  I have been rapid cycling which means going from manic to depressed and back and forth.  When you crash from mania to depression, it is a hard landing. 

When I went on medicare and got supplemental insurance, I have had a difficult time finding a doctor and really didn't try that hard.  I had plenty of my mood stabilizers but had run out of my antidepressant made specifically for bipolar people.  I had an appointment today - I did not make it.  I had crashed Tuesday night and stayed crashed until this morning.

Not good.  I missed my feed bag and missed my morphine.  Missing both has bad consequences.  I felt like a fragile fall leaf.  You get immediate morphine withdrawals - not fun.  Missing the feed bag makes you feel like you are completely depleted.  I almost feel 3 times.  Had to cancel 2 appointments - which stinks as one was for a psychiatrist.  I desperately need  antidepressants.

I feel like Alice who dropped down the rabbit hole.  I know I will get to the doc eventually.  Can't wait for that.  So if you wonder where I have been - been in hiding - extremely depressed.  It is getting better but the meds would be so much better.

I have been sick a lot lately - something is amiss.  I am seeing the oncologist at the end of March.  It is time for a body scan.  Curious and scared at the same time.

My mom came over to take me to the doc but I could barely move.  So lucky to have her here to help.

More later -

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