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Internal examination under anaesthetic

What happens when you have an internal examination to help stage your cancer.

What an internal examination under anaesthetic is

This test is to check for signs of cancer spread around your vagina. An examination under general anaesthetic is also called an EUA.

The examination includes checking the inside of your:

  • vagina and cervix
  • womb
  • bladder
  • back passage (rectum)

Your specialist (gynaecologist) can take samples of tissue (biopsies) during the test if necessary.

Before your test

Your specialist will check that you are fit and well enough for a general anaesthetic.

Having a general anaesthetic means that you won’t be able to eat or drink for a number of hours beforehand. You usually stop eating at least 6 hours before the procedure. You can usually drink water up to 2 hours beforehand. Your appointment letter will give you instructions about this.

You need an empty bowel so your specialist can check the inside of your rectum. So you may need an enema before the test.

What happens

Your specialist puts a speculum into your vagina to keep it open. They check your vagina and cervix for signs of cancer spread. They pass a slim telescope, called a hysteroscope, through your cervix into the womb. They then put some fluid or gas through the hysteroscope to inflate your womb a little. This makes it easier for them to see inside and carefully examine your womb.

To check your bladder, they put a thin tube with light and camera attached (called a cystoscope) into your urethra. The urethra is the tube that drains urine out of your body from the bladder. They fill the bladder with fluid and carefully check the bladder lining.

To check the inside of your rectum, your specialist uses their gloved finger to feel for any growths. Or they use an instrument called a proctoscope or sigmoidoscope to look inside your bowel.

Your specialist takes biopsies of any abnormal areas. They send these to the lab to check for cancer cells.

After the test

Once you are awake from the anaesthetic, you go to the ward to recover. You need to be in hospital for at least a few hours after a general anaesthetic. You usually go home the same day.

You can’t drive yourself home after an anaesthetic. So you need someone to take you home and stay with you overnight.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. You normally get them at your next clinic appointment.

Waiting for test results can be worrying. You might have contact details for a specialist cancer nurse. You can get in touch with them for information and support if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
23 Apr 2018
  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita , TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

  • Cancer and its Management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

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