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.
Your doctor or nurse examines you at each appointment. They might do an examination of your cervix and back passage (pelvic-rectal examination). 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 may include:
- taking a sample of cells from the cervix using a small brush
- blood tests
- CT scans or MRI scans
Once treatment finishes you have a sample of cells taken from the cervix or, after a radical trachelectomy, from the area around the lower part of the womb (isthmus) and top of the vagina.
You may also have a colposcopy so your doctor can have a close look at the top of your vagina. You generally have these tests once a year.
If you've had your womb removed, your doctor may suggest taking a sample of cells from the top of the vagina if you have unusual symptoms. This is called a vaginal vault test.
Cervical cells can be very difficult to interpret after radiotherapy, and so you won't continue to have regular tests as part of the UK cervical screening programme. But your doctor will still want to have a look at the cervix using a speculum during your appointments to make sure there are no problems.
How often you have check ups
Your first follow up appointment will be within 6 weeks of completing treatment.
Your check ups will continue for some years after your treatment. How often you have appointments can vary between different hospitals, and may be tailored to your own situation. You might have follow up every:
- 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years
- 6 to 12 months for the following 3 to 5 years
In some hospitals, women with early cancers may now only have a few follow up appointments. In this case, you are given plenty of information about what to look out for and who to contact if you have any concerns.
You might go for check ups at the surgical outpatients after surgery. Or you go to the cancer clinic if you’ve had chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your gynaecologist oncologist and cancer specialist (oncologist) might share your follow up. This means you see your gynaecologist oncologist sometimes and your oncologist at other times.
Some hospitals are arranging for specialist nurses to follow up patients with phone calls, to save them having to go to the hospital unnecessarily.
If you're 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.