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Vaginal cancer

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Supportive care for vaginal cancer

Supportive careSupportive careTreatment given to improve the quality of life of people who have a serious illness (such as cancer). helps women meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of vaginal cancer. It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.

 

Recovering from vaginal cancer and adjusting to life after treatment is different for each woman, depending on the extent of the disease, the type of treatment and many other factors. The end of cancer treatment may bring mixed emotions. Even though treatment has ended, there may be other issues to deal with, such as coping with long-term side effects. A woman who has been treated for vaginal cancer may have the following concerns.

Self-esteem and body image

How a woman feels about or sees herself is called self-esteem. Body image is a person’s perception of their own body. Vaginal cancer and its treatments can affect a woman’s self-esteem and body image. Often this is because cancer or cancer treatments may result in body changes, such as:

Some of these changes can be temporary, others will last for a long time and some will be permanent.

For many people, body image and their perception of how others see them is closely linked to self-esteem. It may be a real concern for them and can cause considerable distress. They may be afraid to go out or afraid others will reject them. They may feel angry or upset. Even though the effects of treatment may not show on the outside, body changes can still be troubling because the “old body” is lost and because of the importance of the particular change in the body to the person.

Sexuality

Many women continue to have strong, supportive relationships and satisfying sex lives after vaginal cancer. However, sexuality can be a concern for some women. There are ways to manage sexual problems that may occur because of vaginal cancer treatment.

Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the swelling that occurs when lymph fluid collects in part of the body. Women who have lymph nodes removed from the pelvis may notice some swelling of the legs after surgery. This is due to an interruption of the lymphatic system that causes pooling of lymph fluid.

Ostomy care

An ostomy connects a hollow organ to an opening (stoma) on the abdomen. Women who have a pelvic exenteration can have their bladder, rectum or both removed. A urostomy allows urine to pass out of the body, and a colostomy allows stool to pass out of the body into a collection device. Women who have both the bladder and rectum removed will have 2 ostomies.

Many women can adapt to and live normally with an ostomy, although they have to learn new skills and how to care for it. Specially trained healthcare professionals (called enterostomal therapists) teach people how to care for their ostomies.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about supportive care after treatment.

Stories

Sister Audrey Daoust I couldn’t have asked for better care than they gave me. They were a blessing. I couldn’t manage on my own

Read Audrey's story

Support from someone who has ‘been there’

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The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.

Learn more