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Follow up

After treatment, you have regular check ups to look for signs of the cancer coming back or spreading. This is called follow up.

Your follow up appointments

Your regular check ups are called follow up appointments.

At first, your appointments are to make sure you are recovering from the treatment you've had. Later on, your doctor will be looking for signs of long term side effects from your treatment and, most importantly, checking for any sign that the cancer has come back. Your follow up appointments are also a good opportunity for you to raise any concerns you have about your progress.

You might need to come back to hospital to see the speech therapist if you have had your voice box removed. You can arrange this through your specialist or nurse when you go to the outpatient clinic. If you have a follow up appointment coming up and would like to see a speech therapist at the same time, you can contact the clinic or your specialist’s secretary to see if this can be arranged.

What happens

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 you might have

Your specialist examines you at each appointment. You might have a naseoendoscopy. You have a flexible tube put up your nose and down your throat to look at your larynx, or the area where it was before surgery. This test is usually all you need.

If your or your doctor have any concerns about your health, you might have:

  • blood tests 
  • x-rays
  • a CT or MRI scan of your neck 
  • a PET-CT scan 
  • an ultrasound scan 

How often you have appointments

At first, your have check ups every 6 weeks or so. Later, if you stay well, they gradually become less and less frequent. The exact timing of follow up appointments will be up to your consultant. Usually your doctor asks you to go for check ups:

  • every 4 to 8 weeks for the first year
  • every 2 to 3 months for the second year
  • every 3 to 4 months for the third year
  • every 6 months for the fourth year
  • then once a year if you and your doctor think it is needed

Between your appointments

Let your doctor know as soon as possible if you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments. You don’t have to wait until your next appointment.

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring back all the worry about your cancer. You might find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you are feeling. If you can share your worries they might not seem quite so bad.

It is now quite common for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. Do look for counselling organisations if you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can also to find people to share experiences with online using our online forum, CancerChat.

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.

Last reviewed: 
05 Jul 2016
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    Tobias J and Hochhauser Docchhauser D
    Blackwell, 2015

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