After treatment, you have regular check ups to look for signs of the cancer coming back or spreading. This is called follow up.
Why you have follow up appointments
You have follow up appointments every few months to check how you are and see whether you have any problems or worries. The appointments also give you the chance 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:
- blood tests
- CT scan
- ultrasound scans
If you have had surgery to try to cure your gallbladder cancer, your surgeon may organise regular CT or MRI scans to try to pick up any signs of the cancer coming back as early as possible.
If you had a more advanced gallbladder cancer, your doctor may only arrange a scan if you have any new symptoms, or if there is any other cause for concern.
Generally, if everything is going well, you will not have follow up scans because they are unlikely to give any new information to you or your doctor.
Where you will go
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.
Help with diet
If you are having difficulty with your diet then you may want to come back to the hospital to see a dietician. You can arrange this through your specialist or nurse when you attend the outpatients’ clinic.
If you have a check up coming up and would like to see a dietician at the same time, you could telephone the clinic or your specialist’s secretary to ask them to arrange it for you.
At first, your check ups will be every few weeks or months. But if you are well, they will gradually become less and less frequent.
If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, you must let your doctor know as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until your next appointment.
If you are having symptoms due to advanced cancer you will see your doctor or nurse regularly. They will check how you are coping generally, and see how well the treatments for your symptoms are working.
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.