Follow up

After treatment, you have regular check ups at the hospital. You might also have tests including a digital rectal examination (DRE), and scans. Over time, these appointments become less frequent. 

Why you have follow up appointments

You usually 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.

Check ups

After treatment, you have follow up appointments. The doctor will:

  • look for signs of the cancer coming back
  • see if there are any problems following treatment

You have your check ups at the cancer clinic after chemoradiotherapy.

You might go for check ups at the surgical outpatients after surgery.

The surgeon and the oncologist might share your follow up. This means that you see the surgeon sometimes and the oncologist at other times.

Specialist nurse

Most bowel surgery units have a colorectal specialist nurse and a stoma specialist nurse.

You usually meet them in the clinic before you have surgery. Both specialist nurses will give you a telephone number. Contact them if you have any worries or problems.

How often

At first, your check ups will be every few weeks or months. They gradually get less frequent.

If you feel worried, or have a new symptom between appointments, tell your doctor or specialist nurse as soon as possible. Don't wait until your next appointment.

What happens

At each appointment your doctor examines you. They'll ask:

  • how you're feeling
  • if you've had symptoms
  • if you're worried about anything

You might have tests or scans. These might include:

  • a digital rectal exam (DRE)
  • a anoscopy or proctoscopy
  • MRI scans
  • CT scans

You won’t have these tests at every visit. How often you have scans will depend on:

  • the treatment you've had
  • your type and stage of cancer
  • any symptoms you have
  • the follow up guidelines your doctor uses

Worried about your check up

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.

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: 
03 May 2019
  • Anal cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    R. Glynne-Jones and others
    Annals of Oncology 2014. Volume 25, Pages iii10-iii20

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