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Follow up appointments

Find out about follow up appointments and tests after treatment for mouth and oropharyngeal cancer.

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.

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 might include:

  • blood tests 
  • x-rays
  • a CT scan
  • an ultrasound scan

It is very important to have regular dental check ups. 

Thyroid levels 

Your doctor will regularly check your thyroid levels if you had external radiotherapy to your neck. About 30 to 40 out of 100 people (30 to 40%) have low thyroid hormone levels after radiotherapy. This can make you feel very tired a lot of the time.

Speech therapy 

You will regularly see a speech therapist if you have:

  • changes to your speech
  • difficulty swallowing

Where you have follow up

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.

How often you have follow up

  • In the first year your check ups will be about once a month
  • In the second year your check ups will be once every 2 months
  • In the third year your check ups will be every 3 months
  • In the fourth and fifth years your check ups will be every 6 months
  • After the fifth year you might be discharged if there is no signs of your cancer coming back

This is only a general guide and your check ups might be more or less often. This depends on your type of cancer, the treatment you have had, and how your recovery is going.

Smoking

Your doctor will encourage you to give up smoking before you start treatment. It is still worth giving up smoking after mouth or oropharyngeal cancer as it reduces your risk of your cancer coming back. 

Last reviewed: 
16 Oct 2014
  • Head and Neck Cancer: Multidisciplinary Management Guidelines 4th edition

    British Association of Otorhinolaryngology, 2011

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