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Follow up appointment

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

What happens

Your doctor will want you to have regular check ups after treatment. It is very important with head and neck cancers to make sure the cancer has not come back or a new cancer hasn't developed.

People who have had a head and neck cancer are sometimes more at risk of developing a new (second) cancer. 

Depending on the type of cancer you had, your check ups may include:

  • a physical examination
  • blood tests
  • x-rays
  • CT scan
  • ultrasound scans
  • regular dental check ups

If you had external radiotherapy to your neck, your doctor will want to do regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels.

About 30 to 40 out of every 100 people (30 to 40%) treated with external radiotherapy to the neck will develop low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism). This can cause chronic tiredness.

Your doctor may also use blood tests to see if your treatment has affected your pituitary gland. Your pituitary gland is in your brain and controls many functions of the body by producing chemical messengers (hormones).

You will not have all of these tests at every visit to your specialist. But your doctor will probably examine you at each appointment.

Your doctor will ask how you are feeling, whether you have had any new symptoms or are worried about anything. If you do have any new symptoms, your doctor may suggest a scan to make sure all is well. Generally, if everything is going well, you will not have follow up scans because they are unlikely to provide any new information to you or your doctor.

You may have a yearly chest X-ray to check that there isn't any spread to your lungs.

Seeing a speech therapist

You may need to go back to hospital to see the speech therapist if you have had any changes to your speech. 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 speech therapist at the same time, you could telephone the clinic or your specialist’s secretary to arrange this.

Having your eyes checked

If treatment that has affected your eyes or eyesight, you are likely to need regular check ups.

Your cancer specialist (oncologist) or eye specialist (ophthalmologist) will recommend how often this should be.

How often you have check ups

At first, your check ups will be every 6 weeks or so. As time goes on they will become less frequent.

After 2 years your check ups might be every 3 to 6 months. After 3 years, your appointments could be every 6 months until you reach 5 years.

For squamous cell cancers you may see your specialist yearly for up to 10 years in some hospitals.

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.

Continuing to smoke

If you are a smoker and continue to smoke following your treatment for any head and neck cancer, your doctor is very likely to try and convince you to give up.

Continuing to smoke can reduce the effectiveness of your treatment and increase the risk of another cancer developing. It can also make side effects of treatment more severe.

Giving up smoking can be very difficult especially if you have smoked for a long time. But giving up will have many benefits for you. 

Your hospital specialist, specialist nurse or GP can give you advice and support.

Worrying about check ups

It is normal to worry about check ups after everything you may have been through since you were first diagnosed.

If you are feeling well and are getting on with your life, a hospital appointment can bring all the worry back to you.

You may find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you are feeling. If you are able to share your worries, they may not seem quite so hard to cope with.

There are some counselling organisations if you want to talk to someone outside your own friends and family. 

It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling both during and after cancer treatment.

Last reviewed: 
24 Jul 2014
  • Improving outcomes in head and neck cancers: Evidence update 2012
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, May 2012

  • Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Management Guidelines
    ENT UK, 4th Edition, September 2011

  • Principles and Practice of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology (2nd edition)
    Montgomery P, Rhys Evans P and Gullane P 
    Informa Healthcare, 2009

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