Plan of Action for Cancer Diagnosis

No one ever wants to be told they have cancer. It is something we all fear and dread. If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, you are probably experiencing a flood of emotions, and you are probably wondering what’s next. There is no denying that cancer is devastating news, but it does not mean your life is over. Millions of people cope with cancer every day. You are not alone.


In the United States, approximately 41 out of 100 men and 38 out of 100 women will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. Although cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, with heart disease being number one, the chance of survival is increasing. Thanks to improvements in treatment and early detection, five-year survival rates have increased about 20 percentage points for all cancers combined. Today, more than 15 million people in the United States have had cancer and are still alive. Some of them no longer have cancer, while others continue to live with cancer.


If you have been diagnosed with cancer, try not to lose hope. There is plenty of help and support available to you and a lot of people who care. Despite your diagnosis, you can take steps to self-empowerment and gain greater control of your health and your life. Here is our plan of action to help you along your journey towards healing.

Cancer is tough. But so are you.


What Cancer Does to the Body

Cancer is difficult to grasp, emotionally and intellectually. Given the seriousness of cancer, it is easy to imagine it as a giant man-eating monster, among other things. In reality, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.

In the body of a person who does not have cancer, the cells in the body die when they are old, and new cells grow to replace the old cells. In the body of someone who has cancer, this system malfunctions. Old cells do not die, and cells continue to grow and form abnormal cells. These excessive abnormal cells may form a mass or a tumor, although not all cancers, like leukemia, form tumors. Cancer can happen anywhere in the body, to anyone at any age. However, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.

The biggest concern with cancer is that it will spread to other parts of the body and form more tumors. If this happens, there is a greater chance that a vital organ will be affected and unable to function properly. The goal of most cancer treatments is to eliminate cancer cells by removing cancerous tumors and destroying all cancer cells before they move to other parts of the body or interfere with the body’s vital functions.

What to Do After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Even if you have cancer, you are still in control of the choices you make. The treatment you choose to receive, the way you live your life and the support you reach out for is all up to you. Although your life will change in ways, cancer cannot take away your freedom to choose.


With our plan of action, we hope to help you make informed decisions. We also want to inspire you to share your experience with others and gain a sense of control over your health. Although we cannot guarantee any of these steps will work for you, as everyone copes with cancer differently, we can offer hope. And you are worth every ounce of it. Here’s what to do after a cancer diagnosis.

  1. Ask Questions

First things first — you have the right to ask as many questions as your heart desires. No matter what your concerns are, do not be afraid to ask. It is better to hear the truth and know what to expect than to make important decisions in the dark. By knowing all there is to know about your diagnosis and treatment options, you will be in a much better position to design a healing plan that works for you. Therefore, the first step in our plan of action is to ask questions.

If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, that’s okay, too. New questions will arise as time goes on. For now, we are happy to help you get started. While it’s not an exhaustive list, here are a few questions to ask your doctor after you are diagnosed:

  • What causes the type of cancer I have?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • What is my chance of survival?
  • Has my cancer spread?
  • What procedures will I need?
  • What lifestyle changes should I make?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Is treatment painful?
  • What activities should I avoid?
  • How can I find assistance in paying for treatment?
  • Can I participate in a clinical trial?
  • Who can I reach out to for support?
  • Who can I call if I have more questions?

Your doctor should be comfortable answering your questions, and they should make you feel comfortable asking them. If not, you probably want to find a doctor who has no trouble listening to your concerns. You have a right to understand everything you want to know about cancer and cancer treatment.


Sometimes it can be difficult to remember the questions you want to ask, especially when you are under a lot of stress. We recommend writing questions down before your appointment and bringing a notepad with you to take notes. The more you understand about your body and cancer, the better decisions you will make and the less helpless you will feel.

  1. Find the Best Doctor for You

The next step in your plan of action is to find the right doctors. You may have to travel to reach the best doctor for the treatment you need. Also, it is important to get second opinions. Feel free to get as many opinions as you need. You are experiencing a life-changing event, so it’s good to get advice from different people and then form your own opinion. Although friends and family can help you make decisions, make sure you also consider your gut feelings. You want a treatment plan that not only fights cancer but also encourages emotional and mental well-being.

So, what should you look for in a doctor? First, your doctor should make you feel safe and comfortable when asking questions, and you should feel a sense of trust with your doctor. Also, look for a doctor who has experience treating your specific cancer. In general, key qualities to look for in a doctor include:

  • They listen to you.
  • They explain things in ways you can understand.
  • They make you feel understood.

Overall, you want a doctor you connect with. Think about it — you are about to join a partnership with your doctor to get rid of cancer. Like any relationship, you want someone you can communicate with comfortably and well. If you do not feel at ease asking questions, or if your doctor does not explain things to your satisfaction, move on to someone else. Evaluate your doctor by asking yourself these questions after a visit:

  • Did the doctor let you ask questions?
  • Did you feel like the doctor listened?
  • Did the doctor seem comfortable answering your questions?
  • Could you understand the doctor?
  • Did the doctor ask what your treatment preferences are?
  • Did the doctor spend enough time with you?
  • Did you feel comfortable around the doctor?
  • Is this doctor covered under your health care plan?
  • Do their office hours meet your needs?

There are so many different doctors to choose from, and you might be wondering where you can find the right doctor for your needs. You could start by asking your family doctor for help. Or, you could begin your search online. These online directories may send you on the path to finding the best cancer care specialist for you:

  1. Empower Yourself With Information

Although doctors are going to be major players on your team, don’t underestimate the power you have to find valuable information. Fortunately, there are thousands of resources available to you online or at the local library. In fact, there are so many resources at your disposal, you might feel overwhelmed at first. Once you know your stage of cancer and type of cancer, you will be able to narrow your research and find specific detailed information.


If you are not much of a researcher, or if you feel too unwell or stressed to do the work, try not to worry. Ask a friend or family member to help you gather information, or give yourself a little time to process your emotions. If you were just diagnosed, you might feel emotionally drained, and that’s ok. You can research whenever you feel ready to take action. Here are some of our recommended resources to help you get started finding the information you need.

Online Resources

There are tons of online resources to help you answer questions or find support, from university websites to cancer survivor blogs. Good places to start with include:

That was just a short list of online cancer resources. Feel free to explore whatever you wish. However, try to find information that is legitimate. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure the information you read online is trustworthy:

  • Who manages the information? The person or group in charge of the website information should be easy to find on the webpage.
  • How does the web address end? Addresses that in .gov or .edu are either government or educational sites and are sources you can usually count on. Sites that end in .org or .com may be a good source, but you have to look closer to make sure.
  • What is their purpose? Read about the mission and history of the website before spending too much time with their information.
  • How up-to-date in the information? Check the post or publishing date to make sure the information is current.

Health Insurance Resources

One of your biggest concerns after a cancer diagnosis might be health insurance. How do you know if your health insurance will cover the care you need? Here are some resources to help you find the assistance, information and resources related to health care costs:

Book Recommendations

Not everything you read has to deal with cold hard facts. Try to set aside some time to nurture your spirit too. Pick up one of the following books to warm your heart and inspire hope:

  • From This Moment On: A Guide for Those Recently Diagnosed with Cancer by Arlene Cotter
  • There’s No Place Like Hope: A Guide to Beating Cancer in Mind-Sized Bites by Vickie Girard
  • Cancer Hacks: A Holistic Guide to Overcoming Your Fears and Healing Cancer by Elissa Goodman
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
  • Help Me Live: 20 Things People With Cancer Want You to Know by Lori Hope
  • What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope by Julie K. Silver

Are you the type of person who has always used humor to help you cope with challenges? If so, you are not forgotten. Sometimes, the best medicine is a good laugh anyway. These books are for you:

  • Cancer Schmancer by Fran Drescher
  • It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner
  • Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person by Miriam Engelberg
  1. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Unfortunately, you can’t control cancer. However, you can control your lifestyle choices, and these choices can affect your cancer. Strive to make healthy changes where you can, one step at a time. For the biggest impact on your health, focus on a healthy diet and physical activity.



The food you choose to put into your body can either work to support you in your fight against cancer or against you. Some foods may help slow cancer growth, support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Other foods, like processed meats, are carcinogenic or might exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided. In general, a Mediterranean diet is the recommended diet if you have been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, all Americans could benefit from this diet. Why? A Mediterranean diet is high in cancer-fighting foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean meats and healthy fats — in other words, foods that reduce inflammation. You also want to include a rainbow of fruit and vegetable colors in your diet to make sure you get plenty of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients.

Try to include plenty of the following foods in your diet:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Cauliflower, kale, cabbage and broccoli contain cancer-fighting properties like sulforaphane.
  • Berries: All berries contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Black raspberries are especially packed with phytochemicals.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which may help slow cancer growth.
  • Walnuts: Walnuts contain phytosterols, which may help block growth.
  • Garlic: Garlic is a good source of phytochemicals.
  • Fatty fish: Fish like salmon or tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce inflammation.
  • Green tea: Green tea is a powerful antioxidant.
  • Leafy greens:Spinach, kale, collard greens and arugula contain cancer-fight antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Remember, these foods are not a cure. They are just a few more weapons in your cancer-fighting arsenal.

On the contrary, try to reduce your intake of the following foods:

  • Animal fats: Fats like butter, cheese, meat and other foods high in saturated fat trigger inflammation.
  • Processed meats: Processed meats contain carcinogenic nitrites and nitrates.
  • Too much alcohol: Try to stop after one drink.

If you find that you can’t stand tomatoes or tuna no matter how you prepare them, don’t lose hope. Incorporate healthy foods you enjoy as much as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you indulge in a sundae or find that you can’t give up cheese. Moderation is key.


If movement causes pain, increased heart rate or shortness of breath, take it easy and talk to your doctor. Otherwise, physical activity is recommended for everyone, despite a cancer diagnosis. Exercise does your body a lot of good. Here are a few ways exercise benefits your health after a cancer diagnosis, whether or not you started treatment:

  • Helps prevent muscles weakness
  • Supports body functions
  • Improves mental health and emotional well-being
  • Strengthens immunity
  • Improves strength and flexibility

Overall, exercise boosts your quality of life.

Before starting an exercise program, talk with your doctor. The stage of your cancer and your symptoms will affect what you feel comfortable doing. Don’t push yourself too hard and start slow. Even a few minutes a day is a good place to start. Simple ways to add exercise to your daily routine include:

  • Walk around your neighborhood.
  • Park your car the furthest spot away and walk.
  • Use stairs instead of elevators.
  • Join a walking club.
  • Clean the house.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Wash your car.

Aim to walk at least six hours a week at a regular pace. If six hours is too much, even a one-hour walk a week will improve your health. Don’t limit yourself to walking either. Do what is fun for you, whether that’s biking, dancing, yoga or any form of physical activity. Start slowly with ten minutes a day and then work your way up. Try to include strength training in your routine twice a week if you are able.



After a cancer diagnosis, you might have trouble sleeping. You may be coping with physical symptoms, and your mind might race with worry or fear. It’s normal for negative emotions to keep you up at night after a diagnosis. However, if sleep issues persist and affect your daily routine, let your doctor know. Sleep is important, and your body needs adequate sleep to heal. Sleep helps good cells fight cancer cells, and it strengthens your immunity. Therefore, make sure to include stress-reduction and restful sleep in your plan of action.

After a diagnosis, you may feel like you have to take on a lot because you don’t want to burden loved ones. It’s great to feel in control of your health, but it is also beneficial to accept that you are facing illness. And illness is draining. So make sure to allow yourself time to rest and try not too take on too much or set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Friends and family will understand.

If you can’t sleep because you feel depressed or anxious, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional. Your outlook and your mental health can make a difference in how you cope and progress. Know that it is normal to feel depressed, anxious, guilty, angry and other negative emotions. Your life has just been flipped upside down, so don’t beat yourself up for it. Take the pressure off — you don’t have to feel positive or happy all the time.

There is no evidence that a positive attitude will make your cancer go away. However, a positive attitude may help you cope with challenges and make better lifestyle choices, which in turn, could affect your health. So if you feel sad, don’t feel guilty. Let yourself feel sad. The last thing you want to do is repress your negative feelings. If sad feelings are lowering your quality of life, realize you deserve a safe place to be heard and to voice your pain. You don’t deserve to suffer in silence. Reach out to a professional or talk to close friends or family members whom you trust.

Overall, stress management, a strong social support system and regular exercise may help relieve insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you feel you need more than that, listen to your body. Always keep your doctor informed of new symptoms.


  1. Surround Yourself With Support

Being given a cancer diagnosis is a life-changing, high-stress event. You might feel alone, hopeless and like loved ones can’t understand. The emotions you are probably experiencing are powerful, and you do not need to experience emotions alone.

A strong support system will help you replace feelings of grief, sadness or hopelessness with strength, hope and encouragement. Many people are experiencing the shock of a cancer diagnosis as we speak. Others have been battling cancer for years. Join a group that makes you feel comfortable and heard. There is strength in numbers, and you don’t have to handle all of this alone.


There are many different ways to create a support system. Friends and family are important and should be included. However, connecting with other cancer patients or survivors might help you feel less isolated. If you don’t feel comfortable in support groups, there are also online communities you can join from home.

Here are different forms of support to consider:

  • Support groups
  • Individual counseling
  • Online communities
  • Telephone support groups

Support group resources:

Here are a few local groups:

Which Therapy to Choose

Choosing the right therapy is a tough decision. You might feel overwhelmed with options and ideas. We suggest getting several professional opinions before committing to a treatment plan. You want to go with a plan that feels right to you, but which will also fight your cancer best. Although cancer is natural and cancer cells are your own body’s cells, you likely do not want to leave nature to take care of itself when it comes to cancer. In other words, healthy eating and meditation might help your body fight cancer, but it will not get rid of cancer on its own.

Studies have shown that cancer patients who only used alternative therapies had a much lower survival rate than those who used science. However, you can use alternative therapies in conjunction with modern science to for the ultimate cancer-fighting package. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga may help improve your state of mind, and they may help you cope with cancer symptoms, but they will not cure your cancer. Overall, it is completely up to you when it comes to designing a treatment plan. Ask experts for guidance, do research and choose what’s right for you.

In closing, a cancer diagnosis does not mean your life is over. Keep living your life. Do the things you enjoy, and plan your days as you always have. Keep your heart open to joy, love and optimism. If you need to cry, cry. It might take time, but hope will build every day. You will still have good days and bad days just like you did before your diagnosis.

And most importantly, know that you are not alone. We want to help you get through this, together. For over 25 years, Gettysburg Cancer Center has been providing compassionate and state-of-the-art cancer care. From the initial diagnosis to follow-up care, we stand by your side. Our team is dedicated to providing only the highest-quality care for each individual. Our mission is not only to beat cancer but also to recognize your emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. We understand how cancer affects all areas of an individual’s well-being, and that every person is unique when it comes to health.

Do you have questions? Concerns? Please contact us today. If you would like to schedule an oncology appointment, please contact us or fill out our online form. We look forward to joining you on your path to healing.

Cancer Mortality Rates Continue to Decline in The U.S.

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Continuing a positive trend for the last two decades, cancer death rates declined again last year. According to annual statistics reported from the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate for men and women combined has fallen 26% from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to nearly 2.4 million deaths averted during this time period.

“Cancer Statistics, 2018,” was published in the American Cancer Society’s journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The information is also available in a companion report, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018, and on a website, the Cancer Statistics Center. Although cancer death rates continue to decline, a total of 1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the US in 2018.

The decline is mostly due to steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. “This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control,” said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. “A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates. Strikingly though, tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths today, responsible for nearly 3 in 10 cancer deaths.”

Lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers are leading the way in lower death rates. Lung cancer death rates declined 45% from 1990 to 2015 among men and 19% from 2002 to 2015 among women. Early detection of breast cancer resulted in a 39 percent decline in death rates in women for the same period. Prostate and colorectal cancer experienced a 52 percent reduction between 1970 and 2015, primarily due to increased routine screening.

According to the report, the reduction in death rates is not equal across all ethnic, racial and social economic classes of population. The rates of new cancer occurrence are generally highest among African Americans and lowest for Asian Americans.

Cancer remains the second most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 in the U.S. Leukemia accounts for almost a third of all childhood cancers, followed by brain and other nervous system tumors. While child death rates due to cancer have continuously declined since 1975, cancer incidence rates increased in children and adolescents by 0.6% per year for the same period.

The report also reveals that the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7% for men and 37.6% for women. The most common cancers to be diagnosed in men are prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. The most common cancers to be diagnosed in women are breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. Breast cancer accounts for 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in women. Liver cancer incidence continues to increase rapidly in women, but appears to be stabilizing in men.

The good news is particularly rewarding to the professionals at Gettysburg Cancer Center where their understanding of cancer and how to treat it is constantly evolving toward the day when they have a cure. Testing new procedures for identifying and diagnosing certain diseases and conditions, finding ways to prevent certain diseases or conditions before they have a chance to develop, and exploring new methods of supportive care for patients with chronic diseases are at the core of the ongoing clinical trials at the Center.

Cervical Cancer Info Sheet

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 13,240 new diagnosed cervical cancer cases in the U.S. for 2018. To help increase your chances of preventing it, detecting it early and treating it quickly for a better prognosis if you are diagnosed with it, be sure to get as much cervical cancer info as you can. Take a minute to use this guide to educate yourself on cervical cancer to stay one step ahead.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer beginning in your cervix cells. Your cervix connects to your vagina and is the lower part of your uterus. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease, and certain strains are linked to the development of cervical cancer.

A woman’s immune system usually prevents HPV from causing harm. However, in some women, HPV can survive for years and can contribute to cervical cancer or genital warts. This is why it’s imperative you get regular Pap tests done. Pap testing allows the doctor to identify any changes in the cells of your cervix before they turn into cancer.

The HPV virus has many types, but not all of them cause cervical cancer. Several of them cause genital warts, while others don’t cause any symptoms.

Quickly treating these cells could help prevent cervical cancer. According to The American Cancer Society, around 4,170 women will die from this disease in 2018. However, the good news is regular screening tests and getting vaccinated against the HPV virus reduces your risk of getting cervical cancer. In fact, the cervical cancer rates of death decreased significantly with the increased use of the Pap test.

Types of Cervical Cancer

Several types of cervical cancer exist, and it’s helpful to know which one you have to determine your treatment and prognosis. The two primary types of cervical cancer are:

  1. Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma starts in your column-shaped glandular cells lining your cervical canal.
  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type begins in your squamous cells (flat, thin cells) lining the outer area of your cervix projecting into your vagina. Squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of cervical cancers.

You can have both of these cell types contributing to cervical cancer. While rare, cancer may also occur in other cervix cells.

Who Can Get Cervical Cancer?

All women have a risk of developing cervical cancer. Around 12,000 women in the U.S. each year develop cervical cancer, reports the Office of Women’s Health. While it commonly occurs in women who are 30 years old or older, women of all ages are at risk.

Other than HPV, other risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Having several sexual partners.
  • Using birth control pills for five years or longer.
  • Having previously given birth to three or more kids.
  • Having HIV or another health condition making fighting off health problems difficult for your body.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

Early cervix cancer and precancerous cervical cells changes typically don’t cause any symptoms. Therefore, regular Pap screenings and HPV testing can help your doctor identify changes to precancerous cells early and prevent cervical cancer from developing.

If your cervical cancer is in an advanced stage, you may experience possible symptoms like pain during sex, irregular or abnormal vaginal bleeding or vaginal discharge. Contact your doctor if you experience:

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Bleeding between normal menstrual periods
  • Pelvic pain unrelated to your menstrual period
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Pain during urination
  • Bleeding after douching
  • Unusual or heavy vaginal discharge that’s thick, watery and has a foul odor
  • Bleeding after a pelvic exam

These symptoms may also be an indication of other health problems unrelated to cervical cancer. To avoid these symptoms, you should be learning about or asking your doctor how to prevent cervical cancer.

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer and Risks

If you receive a normal result for your Pap test, you have a low chance of developing cervical cancer in the next year, but you still need to get regular Pap tests according to recommended guidelines. If you’re 30 or over, you may wish to request an HPV test in addition to your Pap test. If both these tests come back with normal results, your doctor may recommend you wait for five years before your next Pap test.

Women between 21 to 65 years old need to get regular Pap tests as their gynecologist directs even if they’re not having sex anymore or think they’re too old to have children. If you’re older than 65 years old with several years of normal Pap test results, or if you’ve had your cervix taken out during a total hysterectomy procedure, your physician might inform you that you don’t require Pap testing anymore.

You might be able to lower your cervical cancer risk also with the following cervical cancer preventions:

  • Stopping smoking.
  • Limiting how many sexual partners you have.
  • Using condoms when having sex

Both men and women can get the HPV virus in their genital areas, even if protected or covered with a latex condom. While doctors aren’t sure of how effective condoms are in preventing the HPV virus, there’s a link between using condoms and a lower cervical cancer rate.

You should also consider:

  • Setting up regular appointments with your gynecologist for Pap testing to check for cervical precancers.
  • Getting vaccinated to protect you against all HPV types commonly involved in vaginal, vulvar and cervical cancers.
  • Following up with the gynecologist if you receive abnormal Pap test results.


Doctors recommend the HPV vaccine for girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old. However, kids and young adults between the ages nine and 26 may also get it. Depending on age, the doctor administers the vaccine in a series of two or three shots. Even if you receive the HPV vaccination, you still need regular Pap testing done to check for cervical cancer.

Routine Health Checks for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer screening throughout cancer prevention history is among the greatest success stories. Widespread screening lowered the incidence and mortality rate of the cancer by 50 percent over three decades. Most attribute this to the effectiveness of Pap test screening. The American Cancer Society estimates over 4,000 lives are saved per year due to screening.

Cervical cancer, if found early, is a successfully treatable cancer.

Your health history, risk factors and age determines how often you need screening. Consult with your physician about your particular case. The guidelines, according to the American Cancer Society, for cervical cancer screening for most women are to have a Pap test conducted:

  • Every three years if you’re between the ages of 21 and 29.
  • Every five years along with an HPV test if you’re between 30 and 64 or every three years for a Pap test alone.

Women over the age of 65 can halt getting Pap test with their doctor’s consent.

If you or your doctor suspect you have cervical cancer, you’ll receive a thorough cervix examination. The doctor uses a colposcope — a magnifying instrument — to check for irregular or abnormal cells. They’ll also probably take a biopsy sample of cervical cells to test in the lab. Your doctor might use the following to obtain tissue:

  • Endocervical curettage: To scrape your cervix for a tissue sample, your physician uses a thin brush or a curette — spoon-shaped, small instrument.
  • Cervical punch biopsy: The doctor pinches off small cervical tissue samples using a sharp instrument.

If either of these cause you concern, your doctor may take a different approach and perform the following:

  • Cone biopsy: This procedure where the physician obtains deeper cervical cell layers to test in the lab. You’ll have this procedure performed in a hospital where you will be either under general anesthesia or an epidural or spinal anesthesia — which numbs you from the waist down.
  • Electrical wire loop: The doctor uses a low-voltage, thin electrical wire for gathering a small sample of tissue.

What to Do Once You Receive a Cervical Cancer Diagnosis

If your physician identifies cervical cancer, you’ll require further testing for the doctor to determine the stage of your cancer. The stage of your cancer determines what treatment is best for you.

Staging exams include:

  • Visual examination of your rectum and bladder using special scopes.
  • Imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs, X-rays and positron emission tomography (PET) so your physician can see whether or not the cancer has spread past your cervix.

Cervical cancer stages are:

  • Stage 1: Your cancer is limited to your cervix.
  • Stage 2: Your cancer is in your cervix as well as the upper part of your vagina.
  • Stage 3: Your cancer moved to your pelvic side wall or lower part of your vagina
  • Stage 4: Your cancer has spread to other organs like your rectum or bladder, lungs, bones or liver.

How to Treat Cervical Cancer

Treating cervical cancer depends on specific factors, such as your cancer stage, preferences and other health conditions, if any. The doctor may recommend chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination of these three.


With chemotherapy, a member of your healthcare team infuses chemotherapy medications into your vein to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy at low doses may be and often are combined with radiation because chemo enhances the radiation effects. Chemotherapy at higher doses helps control more advanced stages of the cancer.


Radiation treatment uses protons, X-rays or other high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. The doctor may use radiation therapy by itself or combine it with chemo to shrink a tumor before surgery or kill the remaining cancerous cells after surgery.

Your doctor may give you radiation therapy:

  • Internally (brachytherapy) where they place a radioactive material-filled device into your vagina for several minutes
  • Externally (external beam radiation treatment) where they direct the radiation beam at your body to the affected area
  • Both internally and externally


If you’re premenopausal, radiation therapy may cause your period to stop and begin menopause. Have your physician preserve your eggs before you receive radiation therapy if you plan on getting pregnant after treatment.


If your cervical cancer is in its early stage, the doctor will likely recommend a hysterectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove your uterus. This procedure may cure your cancer and prevent it from coming back. You won’t be able to get pregnant after the surgeon removes your uterus, so you may wish to consider this carefully before you agree to the surgery.

Your doctor may suggest:

  • Simple hysterectomy: Your surgeon removes your uterus and cervix along with your cancer. Simple hysterectomies are typically the option if your cancer is in its early stage.
  • Radical hysterectomy: Your surgeon removes your uterus, cervix, nearby lymph nodes and part of your vagina along with the cancer.

Another cervical cancer treatment if in the early stage is minimally invasive surgery. Your doctor can perform surgery without lymph node involvement in early-stage cervical cancer to allow you the ability to become pregnant after the surgery.

Follow-Up Care

Once you finish your treatment, you’ll need to have regular follow-up checkups with your doctor.

Supportive (Palliative) Care

Palliative care provides you with specialized medical care where the healthcare team focuses on providing you with relief from your symptoms like pain, for example. For ongoing care, the healthcare professionals work closely with you, your family and any other doctors involved to give you an extra support system.

Palliative care offers you the care and support of nurses, doctors and other specially trained healthcare professionals who all have a goal of improving your quality of life as well as your family’s. When you receive palliative care along with other treatments, it helps increase your comfort and could even extend your life.

Some women think they don’t require screening for cervical cancer once they’ve stopped having kids, but this isn’t a good idea. You should follow the guidelines of the American Cancer Society for early cervical cancer detection.

Coping With Your Diagnosis and Support

Any cancer diagnosis is difficult, and nobody can prepare for it entirely. Manage the fear and shock you might be feeling by taking control of the things you can in your situation.

Everybody copes with their diagnosis of cervical cancer in their own way — you will, too. As time moves forward, you’ll find ways to help you to cope better.

While providing you with cervical cancer medical care from diagnosis to treatment, your team at Gettysburg Cancer Center supports you psychologically, emotionally — and even spiritually if you’d like. Until then, take a few steps to begin taking control right now by:

  • Learning about cervical cancer. This will help you become part of the decision-making process of your care. Ask your doctor questions and take notes during your appointments. Ask your doctor for other resources for information.
  • Talk to people you’re comfortable with. Your family and friends are a great support system where you can discuss your feelings. Support groups are helpful as well.
  • Allow people to help you. Cancer treatments can exhaust you. The more hands you have to accomplish what you need to, the better.
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself. Doing so can give you a sense of purpose and help you feel in control.
  • Give yourself some “me” time. Relaxing, eating well and getting enough sleep can help with the fatigue and stress of cervical cancer.

We hope that you found this cervical cancer information sheet helpful. Here at Gettysburg Cancer Center, we are dedicated to providing you with compassionate and complete patient care from diagnosis through treatment. If you suspect you have cervical cancer, are at risk for it or would like to book an appointment, please complete our contact form, and we’ll reach out to you right away.

Early Detection and Treatment May Prevent Cervical Cancer

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Each year, an estimated 12,820 women in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of cervical cancer. Approximately 4,200 women die from the disease each year, and more than a quarter of a million women will live with the disease each year.  While the numbers can be daunting, when detected early, 91 percent of those diagnosed with cervical cancer will survive.

Long-lasting infections with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause almost all cases of cervical cancer. Normal cells of the cervix can gradually develop pre-cancerous changes.  These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that may turn into cancer.

The two main types of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma and represent the vast majority of cancer of the cervix. Only some of the women with pre-cancers of the cervix will develop cancer, and it may take several years for cervical pre-cancer to change to cervical cancer. For most women, pre-cancerous cells will go away without any treatment, but others will have their pre-cancers turn into invasive cancers.

Detecting and treating all cervical pre-cancers may prevent true cervical cancers. The Pap test (or Pap smear) and the HPV test may prevent cervical cancer by detecting pre-cancers before they can turn into an invasive form of cancer. During the past several decades, screening has reduced deaths from cervical cancer by finding the cancer early and treating it or preventing it from developing.

For women it can be very hard not to be exposed to HPV. Passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact with an infected area of the body, HPV can be spread rapidly and easily.

Available vaccines can protect against infection with the HPV subtypes most commonly linked to cancer. These vaccines help prevent pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. The vaccines require a series of injections and may cause some mild side effects. The most common are is short-term redness, swelling, and soreness at the injection site.

The American Cancer Society recommends vaccinations for girls and boys beginning at age 11 or 12. HPV vaccination is also recommended for females 13 to 26 and males between the ages of 13 and 21. Vaccination at older ages is less effective in lowering cancer risk. No vaccine provides complete protection against all cancer-causing types of HPV, so routine cervical cancer screening is still recommended.

For more than 25 years, Gettysburg Cancer Center has been committed to providing cancer care in a community-based setting close to home. A leader in Oncology care across the region since 1989, Gettysburg Cancer Center’s cancer team provides screening and treatment options to women across York and Adams County.

For the latest information on early detection and treatments for cervical cancer, contact the Gettysburg Cancer Center.

The Value of a Community-Based Cancer Center

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The diagnosis of Cancer most often is accompanied by an intense emotional reaction, denial and a deep sense of dread and fear. The initial reaction is to seek the most information about the disease and the best treatment options available, no matter the cost of time and expense. The travel can impose a significant burden on cancer patients and their families already struggling with a significant life challenge.

In the historically famous but small community of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, The Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC) is meeting the challenges of providing expert comprehensive medical oncology, radiation, diagnostic and radiology services to their community in one location, eliminating the need to travel to regional centers.  With access to expert clinicians and staff, GCC is able to offer quality and comprehensive care in one location.

Adams Diagnostic Imaging (ADI) is an integral part of the GCC. An ACR Certified Imaging Center, ADI is a fully accredited facility focused on providing comprehensive diagnostic services. Whether it is MRI, PET-Scan, Stand Alone CT, Nuclear Medicine, Ultra sound or XRAY, the professional staff at ADI has the latest diagnostic tools available to serve their patient’s specific and individualized needs at affordable prices for the insured and those who self-pay. Their Physicians and highly trained technologists are certified through the ARRT with comprehensive experience and knowledge in radiology. The facility provides flexible scheduling to better accommodate patients by offering longer time slots to improve the patients’ recovery experience.

Clinical trials are an important part of the constantly evolving process of bringing new treatments to market to improve patient outcomes. At GCC, clinical trials are conducted after exhaustive research and development in the lab and are offered to patients to treat or prevent the recurrence of the disease. The first site in the United States to enroll a patient in a pivotal oral chemotherapy trial for all patients with advanced malignancies, GCC clinical trials are some of the most advanced in the field of cancer treatment. The clinical research department at Gettysburg Cancer Center is on the cutting edge of cancer clinical trials.

For more than 25 years, Gettysburg Cancer Center has been committed to providing cancer care in a community-based setting, close to home. The Center works with Hershey Medical Center’s Surgical Oncology Department for all solid tumor board conferences and also collaborates with John Hopkins University and NHI for complicated patient diagnoses.

The Gettysburg Cancer Center prides itself on providing individualized treatment, utilizing the best technical approach, and recognizing each individual patient’s psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs during their journey with their illness and healing.

For more information about Gettysburg Cancer Center, visit