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Further tests for cervical cancer

Women discussing cervical cancer

This page is about the further tests your doctor may suggest if you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. You can find information on

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for cervical cancer

This page is about the further tests your doctor may suggest if you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. You need more tests to see how far the cancer has grown, whether it has spread and to decide on the best treatment.

Pelvic examination under anaesthetic

You have this under general anaesthetic so that your specialist can examine you thoroughly and take biopsies if necessary. The examination includes checking your womb, vagina, rectum and bladder, to see if cancer has spread to any of these areas.

Other tests

Your doctor might want you to have a scan to stage your cancer and check for cancer spread. An MRI scan uses magnetism to build up a picture of the body. A CT scan is a type of computerised X-ray. You may have a PET-CT scan, which combines a CT scan and a scan that uses a low dose of radioactive liquid to highlight areas of possible cancer. You may have blood tests to check your general health. You may also have a chest X-ray to check for signs of cancer in the lungs.

Waiting for the results

You may feel very anxious while waiting for the results of your tests. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you are feeling. If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, contact your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or look in our coping with cancer section for more about counselling.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the diagnosing cervical cancer section.

 

 

Why you need more tests

If your doctor has seen signs of invasive cancer in biopsies of your cervix, they will suggest you have more tests. Invasive means there are cancer cells that have started to grow down through the tissue they started in and into the deeper tissues of the cervix. With any invasive cancer, there is a risk that some cancer cells have broken away and spread to nearby lymph glands or to other parts of the body. You need more tests to see how far the cancer has grown, whether it has spread and to decide on the best treatment. In other words, the tests help decide the stage of your cancer. Your specialist may ask you to have any of the tests listed on this page.

 

Pelvic examination under anaesthetic

You have this under general anaesthetic so that your specialist can examine you thoroughly and take biopsies if necessary. The examination includes checking

  • The size of your womb and whether it moves as it should
  • Inside your vagina for cervical cancer
  • Inside your rectum to see if the cancer has spread there
  • Inside your bladder to see if the cancer has spread there

The doctor may scrape the inside of your womb to get tissue samples to send to the laboratory. These biopsies can show whether the cancer has grown into the inside of the womb.

To check inside your rectum, the doctor can use a gloved finger to feel for any growths. Or they may use a sigmoidoscope to examine the rectal wall more closely. To check inside your bladder the doctor uses a cystoscope. If the doctor sees any abnormal areas during these tests, they will take a biopsy and send it to the laboratory for examination under a microscope.

These examinations can leave you feeling quite uncomfortable, and you may need to take some mild painkillers afterwards.

 

MRI or CT scan

Your doctor might want you to have a scan to stage your cancer and check for cancer spread. An MRI scan uses magnetism to build up a picture of the body. It can be better than X-ray at showing the soft tissues of the body. MRI scans are painless, but take a while and are quite noisy. They are usually done to check for cancer spread within the pelvis or to other parts of the body.

A CT scan is a type of computerised X-ray. It can show the size of your primary cancer and enlarged lymph nodes that may contain cancer. There is information about having an MRI scan and having a CT scan in the about cancer tests section.

 

PET-CT

At some centres a PET-CT scan may be used to show the size of your primary tumour and any cancer spread. It may help to plan your treatment more accurately. These scans are only available at a few centres. There is information about having a PET-CT scan elsewhere on our website.

 

Blood tests

Routine blood tests are taken to check your general health. Blood tests can also check whether your kidneys and liver are working properly.

 

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray may be done to see if there is any sign that the cancer has spread to the lungs. But it is also done routinely to check your fitness for a general anaesthetic.

 

After the tests

You will be asked to come back to the hospital when your test results have come through. After the first round of tests you may need further scans such as a CT or MRI scan. This is to assess for possible spread in more detail. This is bound to take a little time, even if only a day or two. You may feel very anxious during this time.  While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you are feeling.  If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, contact your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or look in our coping with cancer section for counselling organisations. You can also talk things through with one of our cancer information nurses.

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Updated: 21 August 2012