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Living with

A cancer diagnosis is a challenge for most people. How cancer affects your daily life depends on the stage of your cancer and the treatments used.

There are many ways to get help coping with cancer. They do not all work for everybody, but one or more should prove helpful:

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After treatment

Women with womb cancer usually have a hysterectomy. This can be a major operation, and recovery may take from 6 to 12 weeks.

During this time, you will have to avoid lifting things – for example, children and heavy shopping bags – and doing heavy housework. You will not be able to drive for between 3 and 8 weeks after the operation.

Most women need 4 to 12 weeks off work after a hysterectomy. The recovery time will depend on the type of surgery you have, whether or not any problems develop and what type of work you will return to.

Some of the treatments for endometrial cancer, particularly radiotherapy, can make you very tired. You may need to take a break from some of your normal activities for a while. Don't be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends if you need it.

Follow-up

After your course of treatment has finished, you'll probably be invited back for regular check-ups. At the check-up, your doctor will examine you – this is likely to include an internal examination – and possibly carry out blood tests or scans to see how your cancer is responding to treatment.

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Relationships and sex

Relationships with friends and family

Knowing how to talk to your friends and family about your cancer can be difficult, and they may find it hard to talk to you, too. People deal with serious problems in different ways.

It's hard to predict how a diagnosis of cancer will affect you. Being open and honest about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. But don't feel shy about telling people that you want some time to yourself, if that's what you need.

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Your sex life

Womb cancer and its treatment can affect your sex life. This can happen in several ways.

If you haven't already had the menopause, removing the ovaries means you'll go through an early menopause. Symptoms can include vaginal dryness and loss of sexual desire.

Radiotherapy for endometrial cancer can make your vagina narrower and less flexible. Sometimes, the vagina gets so narrow having sex becomes difficult.

To stop this happening, you should be offered a set of vaginal dilators, which are plastic cones you put into your vagina to stretch it. You can also stretch your vagina by having sex, or by using your fingers or a vibrator.

It's common for women to lose interest in sex after treatment for womb cancer. Your treatment may leave you feeling very tired. You may feel shocked, confused or depressed about being diagnosed with cancer, and you also may be grieving the loss of your fertility.

It's understandable that you may not feel like having sex while having to cope with all this. Try to share your feelings with your partner.

If you feel you have problems with sex that are not getting better with time, you may want to speak to a counsellor or sex therapist.

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Talking to others

Being diagnosed with cancer can be hard for patients and their families. You'll need to deal with the emotional and practical difficulties.

With womb cancer, you have to cope physically with recovering from a hysterectomy as well as the possible emotional impact of losing your womb.

Younger women may have to face the fact they won't be able to have children, and cope with the grief and anger that may cause.

It can often help to discuss your feelings and other difficulties with a trained counsellor or therapist. You can ask for this kind of help at any stage of your illness. There are various ways to find help and support:

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Money and financial support

If you have to limit or stop work because of your cancer, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have cancer or are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support.

Find out early on what help is available to you. You can ask to speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.

Free prescriptions

People being treated for cancer are entitled to apply for a certificate giving free prescriptions for all medication, including medicine for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for 5 years, after which you can apply for it to be renewed. You can apply for a certificate by speaking to your GP or cancer specialist.

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Dealing with dying

If you're told nothing more can be done to treat your womb cancer, your care will focus on controlling your symptoms and helping you to be as comfortable as possible. This is called palliative care.

Palliative care also includes psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers.

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