You usually have follow up appointments 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 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. These could include:
- a test to look inside your nose and throat (nasendoscopy)
- blood tests
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- PET-CT scan
- hearing tests
You might have your first scan about 3 to 6 months after radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy.
You usually have regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. This is because some people develop low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) after having radiotherapy to the neck. If this happens you have to take tablets to replace the thyroid hormones.
You might also have blood tests to check whether 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).
How often you have appointments
How often you have follow up appointments can vary slightly between hospitals. At first, you may have follow up appointments every 6 weeks or so. As time goes on, and if you stay well, your appointments gradually become less frequent. Your appointments might be:
- every 2 to 3 months for the first year
- every 6 months for the second and third years
- once a year for years 4 and 5 after treatment
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.
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.
You can also ask to see other members of your support team, such as the speech and language therapist or dietitian.
Giving up smoking
Your doctor will advise you to try to give up smoking, if you still smoke after your treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer.
Giving up smoking can be very difficult, especially if you have smoked for a long time. But it does give you many benefits, which include:
- reducing your risk of getting another head and neck cancer
- reducing your risk of getting a different smoking related cancer
- helping your recovery by preventing some of the side effects
Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you contact details of services that can help you stop smoking.