Living with cervical cancer 

The impact of cervical cancer on your daily life will depend on the stage of cancer and the treatment you're having.

Many women with cervical cancer have a radical hysterectomy. This is a major operation that takes around 6 to 12 weeks to recover from. During this time, you need to avoid strenuous tasks and lifting, such as lifting children or heavy shopping bags.

You won't be able to drive for 3 to 8 weeks after the operation. Most women will also need 8 to 12 weeks off work to recover after having a radical hysterectomy.

Some of the treatments for cervical cancer can make you very tired, particularly chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Because of this, 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. Practical help may also be available from your local authority. Ask your doctor or nurse about who to contact. 


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

If you have cancer, you're covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. This means that your employer isn't 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's "reasonable" depends on the situation, such as how much it would affect your employer's business, for example.

You should give your employer as much information as possible about how much time you'll need off and when. Speak to a member of your human resources department, if you have one. Your union or staff association representative can also give you advice.

If you're having difficulties with your employer, your union or local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help.

Macmillan Cancer Support also has more information and advice about work and cancer.

Money and benefits

If you have to reduce or stop work because of your cancer, you may find it difficult to cope financially. If you have cancer or you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support. For example:

  • if you have a job but can't work because of your illness, you're entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer
  • if you don't have a job and can't work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance
  • if you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer's Allowance
  • you may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or you have a low household income

It's a good idea to find out what help is available as soon as possible. You could 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 an exemption certificate giving free prescriptions for all medication, including treatments for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for five years. You can apply for a certificate by speaking to your GP or cancer specialist.

Read more about help with prescription costs.

Your sex life

Many women feel nervous about having sex soon after treatment for cervical cancer, but it's perfectly safe. Sex won't make the cancer come back and your partner can't catch cancer from you.

If you want to, you can resume your normal sex life within a few weeks of finishing radiotherapy or having surgery. This will give your body time to heal.

If you're having chemotherapy, male partners should wear a condom when you have sex, because it's not clear if having sex after chemotherapy can have an effect on them.

Some women find sex difficult after being treated for cervical cancer, because the side effects of some treatments can include vaginal dryness and narrowing of the vagina. In these cases, there are treatments that can help, such as vaginal dilators. 

See complications of cervical cancer for more information.

Macmillan Cancer Support has more information on how treatment for cervical cancer may affect your sex life.

Page last reviewed: 30/04/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2017