Find out about follow up appointments and tests after treatment for cervical cancer.
Why you have follow up appointments
You have follow up appointments to check how you are and whether you have any problems or worries. They also give you the opportunity to raise any concerns you have about your progress.
Your doctor or nurse examines you at each appointment. They ask how you are feeling, whether you have had any symptoms or side effects and if you are worried about anything.
You might also have tests at some visits.
Tests may include:
- brushing a sample of cells from the cervix or colposcopy
- blood tests
- CT scans or MRI scans
- liver ultrasound scans
Immediately after your treatment is over you will have a sample of cells taken from the cervix using a small brush. Or you may have a colposcopy. You have this repeated once a year. If you've had your womb removed, your doctor may suggest taking a sample of cells from the top of the vagina if you have unusual symptoms. This is called a vaginal vault test.
Cervical cells can be very difficult to interpret after radiotherapy, and so you will not continue to have regular tests as part of the UK cervical screening programme. But your doctor will still want to have a look at the cervix using a speculum during your appointments to make sure there are no problems.
How often you have check ups
Your first follow up appointment will be within 6 weeks of completing treatment.Your check ups will continue for some years after your treatment. Ongoing follow up might be:
- 3 to 4 monthly in the 1st year
- 6 monthly for 2 years
- yearly for 3 years
Some hospitals see patients less often, if the outcome of their treatment is likely to be good. Some are also arranging for specialist nurses to follow up patients with phone calls, to save them having to come to the hospital unnecessarily.
You might go for check ups at the surgical outpatients after surgery. You go to the cancer clinic if you have had chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The surgeon and the oncologist might share your follow up. This means you see the surgeon sometimes and the oncologist at other times.
Contact your doctor or specialist nurse if you have any concerns. You should also contact them if you notice any new symptoms between appointments. You don’t have to wait until your next visit.
If you are worried
Many people find their check ups quite worrying. A hospital appointment can bring back any anxiety you had about your cancer.
It can help to tell someone close to you how you’re feeling. Sharing your worries can mean they don’t seem so overwhelming. Many people find it helpful to have counselling after cancer treatment.
Patient led follow up
Some hospitals are trying out a new way of running their check ups. This system leaves it to you to take the lead in arranging to see your doctor or specialist nurse.
When you first finish treatment, your hospital arranges your appointments. But once your doctors are happy with your progress you can arrange them yourself. You can do this as often as you feel you need to.
You might want to make an appointment if you:
- have noticed a change in your body that worries you
- feel it is time you had a check up, even though you don't have any particular worries
In some situations, your specialist will ask you to book in for a particular test every so often.
This system means you can organise appointments to suit your own health needs. It also means that clinics aren’t full of people who might not need to see their doctor. This helps the hospital to keep waiting times short, so you can get an appointment quickly when you need one.