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Practical aspects of living with cervical cancer

After a diagnosis of cervical cancer, there may be a number of practical things to think about. These may include the cost of treatment and support, travel and accommodation costs, or childcare.

Concern about practical issues can affect how a woman feels, especially if it interrupts her daily activities. Some women worry about who will look after the children or another family member while they are in hospital, or how they will cope financially if they are unable to work. Sometimes women feel guilty about the impact of their cancer and its treatment on the family.

Work

Having cervical cancer doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to give up work. But you may need quite a lot of time off, and you may not be able to carry on completely as before, during your treatment.

If you have cancer your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you because of your illness. They have a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to help you cope. Examples of these include:

  • allowing you time off for treatment and medical appointments
  • allowing flexibility with working hours, the tasks you have to perform or your working environment.

The definition of what is 'reasonable' depends on the situation. For example, it may need to be determined how much it would affect your employer's business.

It will help if you give your employer as much information as possible about how much time you will need off and when. Talk to your human resources department if you have one. Your union or staff association representative should also be able to give you advice.

Cost of treatments

The cost will depend upon whether you are treated in the public or private system; are working and have to take time off; live in a rural area and need to travel for treatment; have private health insurance.

A social worker or welfare worker can give you information about what financial and practical support services are available (your nurse or another member of your healthcare team can tell you how to access a social worker or welfare worker).

Talk to your local Medicare office about the 'safety net' on costs of medications and medical bills.

Government-assisted travel schemes

Women who need to have treatment in a hospital far away from home may be able to get help with the cost of accommodation and travel. Each state and territory has a government-funded scheme to help patients who have to travel long distances to obtain specialist treatment that is not available locally.

The names for these schemes vary. Depending on a woman's individual situation and where she lives, assistance with childcare, meals and general home help may also be available. Some women may be eligible for a sickness allowance while having treatment.

Ask your hospital social worker, doctor or Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 what financial and practical assistance may be available in your local area.

More information

Sources of information about financial and practical help include:

Practical assistance

There are a number of sources of practical support available for women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

  • Program of Aids/Appliances for Disabled People (PADP) is state-based and provides equipment and aids to help people live independently. Equipment such as wheelchairs, shower chairs and wigs for those women suffering hair loss from chemotherapy might be provided. PADP provides the equipment on indefinite loan for as long as it's needed, except for personal use items such as wigs, which are not required to be returned. Women need a letter from their doctor and needs are assessed by a health professional, such as an occupational therapist. The local hospital or community nurse can also provide information about other available schemes or sources of equipment.
  • Meals on Wheels will deliver meals on weekdays to housebound people for a minimal charge. You can contact them directly, but you need a referral from your doctor, social worker or community nurse.
  • Home care service/domiciliary care services can provide practical help in the home. They can provide services such as respite, basic domestic help and personal care; essential home and yard upkeep are sometimes available. Help is prioritised based on level of need and the cost of the service is adjusted according to individual circumstances.

Sources: Cancer Australia (Living with cervical cancer), NHS Choices, UK (Cervical cancer)

Last reviewed: October 2015

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