For some women with cervical cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. It can feel good to be done with treatment, but it can also be stressful. You may find that you now worry about the cancer coming back. This is a very common concern among those who have had cancer. (When cancer comes back, it is called a recurrence.)
It may take a while before your recovery begins to feel real and your fears are somewhat relieved. You can learn more about what to look for and how to learn to live with the chance of cancer coming back in Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence.
For other women, the cancer may never go away completely. These women may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be hard and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document, When Cancer Doesn't Go Away, talks more about this.
After your treatment is over, it is very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and may order blood tests or imaging studies such as CT scans or x-rays. You will need to keep getting Pap tests no matter how you were treated (if you were treated with surgery that removed the cervix, cells for the Pap test come from the top part of the vagina). Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments. These exams also give your doctor a way to watch you for signs of a new cancer, like those caused by HPV or those that can result from cancer treatment.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can be permanent. Please tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them. Use this time to ask your health care team questions and discuss any concerns you might have.
It is also important to keep your health insurance. While you hope your cancer won't come back, it could happen. If it does, you don't want to have to worry about paying for treatment. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence helps you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:
- A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
- If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home from the hospital
- If you had radiation treatment, a summary of the treatment
- If you had chemotherapy, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- Copies of your x-rays and other imaging tests (these can often be put on a DVD)
The doctor may want copies of this information for his records, but always keep copies for yourself.
Last Revised: 01/29/2016