Follow up for ovarian cancer

After treatment, you have regular check ups at the hospital. You also have tests including blood tests, x-rays and scans. Over time, these appointments become less frequent. 

Why you have follow up appointments

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.

You have tests at some of these appointments. The doctor is looking for signs that your cancer has come back or started to grow again. 

What happens?

Your doctor or nurse specialist examines you at each appointment. They ask how you are feeling, whether you have had any symptoms or side effects, and if anything is worrying you. You might also have tests at some visits.

Tests may include:

  • blood tests
  • x-rays
  • CT scan
  • ultrasound scans

You will not have all these tests at every visit to the hospital. 

CA125 blood test

Doctors often use routine CA125 blood tests to monitor the growth of ovarian cancer after treatment. CA125 is a protein that some ovarian cancers make and release into the bloodstream. The bloodstream level of CA125 can sometimes go up before there are any signs of the cancer on scans.

Some women became very anxious when they had this test at each appointment. A large trial looked at how useful routine CA125 testing was as part of follow up for ovarian cancer.

The researchers found that giving treatment as soon as the cancer started to grow back worked no better than waiting until symptoms developed and then starting treatment. People having treatment earlier might also have a lower quality of life because of treatment side effects.

So now, some doctors don't routinely test for CA125 if you are well and have no symptoms of the cancer coming back.

How often you have check ups

How often you have check ups depends on your treatment and how well you are.

For the first couple of years, your check ups will usually be every 3 months. After this, you usually have 6 monthly appointments for up to 5 years.

You may see your surgeon (gynaecological oncologist) for one appointment and your cancer specialist (oncologist) for the next. In some hospitals, you may see your gynaecology cancer specialist nurse at every appointment instead of seeing a doctor.

If you're worried

If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between your appointments, let your doctor or nurse know as soon as possible. You don't have to wait until the next appointment.

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.

  • Management of epithelial ovarian cancer
    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), 2013

  • Newly Diagnosed and Relapsed Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines
    JA Ledermann and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2013. Volume 24, Supplement 6.

  • Ovarian cancer: recognition and initial management
    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2011

  • Early versus delayed treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer (MRC OV05/EORTC 55955): a randomised trial
    GJ Rustin and others
    Lancet, 2010. Volume 376, Issue 9747

  • British gynaecological cancer Society (BGCS) Epithelial Ovarian / Fallopian Tube / Primary Peritoneal Cancer Guidelines: Recommendations for Practice
    C Fotopoulou and others
    European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, April 2017.  Vol. 213, p123–139

  • Cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube and peritoneum
    J Berek and others
    International Journal of Gynaecological Obstetrics 2018: Issue 143 Supplement 2 pages 59 - 78

Last reviewed: 
31 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
31 Jan 2025

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