What Happens After Treatment for Vaginal Cancer?
For some people with vaginal cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are living full lives. Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence gives more detailed information on this. It can be read online, or call us to have a free copy sent to you.
For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away talks more about this.
When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you are having and may do pelvic exams and Pap tests as well as lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.
Treatment can leave vaginal tissue fragile and prone to injury. Follow-up will require checking these tissues for injury or tightening and scarring. Some women will be advised to use vaginal dilators, which a woman inserts in her vagina to gently stretch her vaginal tissue, gradually making it more elastic and normal over time.
It’s important to keep your health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
Should your cancer come back, When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can give you information on how to manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know anything about your medical history. It’s important that you be able to give your new doctor the 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 the following information handy:
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you were hospitalized, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
- If you had radiation therapy, a copy of your treatment summary
- If you had chemotherapy or were treated with topical therapy, a list of the drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- Copies of your x-rays and other imaging studies (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 Medical Review: June 17, 2014 Last Revised: February 16, 2016