Treatment for cervical cancer may remove or destroy the cancer cells. Thus, treatment can be stressful and exhilarating at the same time. When you finish the treatment, you might be relieved afterwards but it is also hard not to think and worry whether the cancer might come back. The recurrence of cancer is a very common concern of people with cancer.
Your fear about the recurrence of cancer may take a while to lessen. However, you may find out that many cancer survivors have learned how to live and deal with this uncertainty and be able to live their life to the fullest.
Unfortunately, there are women whose cancer may never go away. They will need regular treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other therapies to ease their symptoms. This type of uncertainty is more difficult to live with and can be very stressful.
Follow Up Care
Even if your treatment has ended your doctor will still want to monitor your condition. Hence, a follow up care is necessary. You should be able to go to all the follow up visits scheduled by your doctor.
During your visits, the doctor will ask questions regarding any problems that you may have encountered and examine you. Expect to have regular pelvic exams. Regular Pap test is also recommended by most doctors even if you have finished your cancer treatment. For women who no longer have a cervix because their treatment involved hysterectomy or trachelectomy, the sample cells will be collected from the upper portion of the vagina. Laboratory procedures and imaging tests like X-rays may also be done to look for the long term effects of treatment and to check for signs of cancer.
All types of treatment for cervical cancer have their own side effects. These effects could last for a few weeks, months or lifetime. It is important to ask your doctor or cancer care team regarding the problems you noticed during your follow up visits. You could also discuss any concern during this time.
Follow up care also allows your doctor to watch for signs where the cancer is coming back or signs of a new cancer. If you had cervical cancer, you are at a high risk of developing vaginal cancer. You are also at a risk of having another HPV related cancer or a cancer which might be caused by treatment.
How Often Should You Have Check Ups?
You may have frequent check ups right after the treatment. Cancer cells have good chances of resurfacing, therefore follow up check ups are mandatory. Initially, you will be called every few months or sometimes every month. Maybe after a year, the doctor may ask you to visit once in every six months depending on your health condition. After this, you may be asked to visit only once every three years if there are no recurring symptoms.
What Can You Do as a Patient?
Undergoing a treatment for cervical cancer or any cancer is not easy. It is tiresome and stressful. You may have the feeling that the cancer and its treatment has taken over your life. You may feel emotionally imbalanced and financially stressed. But let all this not come in the way of your treatment. Follow up is also a very crucial part of the treatment. You are the one who has to make sure that you would not have to go through the entire procedure all over again. It is very common to feel depressed under such situation. But, be open about your feelings to your doctor as they know how to handle such situations. Also, carry on with your daily activities as usual. Stay in contact with your friends and family and do all the things which you would do otherwise. But yes, if the doctor has imposed any restrictions then adhere to them. Look at the brighter side of life. Explore new things and have a new beginning. Improve your general health by indulging in healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. Become a role model for those who go through the rough phase of cancer treatment.
Symptoms of Recurrence
One of the important reasons of a follow up is to check for recurrence of the cancer cells. Cancer can recur because at times some of the cancer cells remain undetected. And with time these cancer cells grow and start showing signs and symptoms.
You yourself are the best person to understand if anything wrong is going on with your body. It is pretty common to experience certain symptoms after your treatment. But if the symptoms stick for way too long, you must visit the doctor and take their advice. Following are a few common symptoms which signal the recurrence of a cancer although it does not always necessarily indicate cancer.
• Pelvic pain – pain in the lower abdomen
• Discharge from the vagina
• Backache that persists for a long time
• Post sex bleeding from the vagina
• Pain after sexual intercourse
• Rapid weight loss
• Unbearable pain
• Lumps in the neck
• Bowel/bladder changes
• Persistent cough
Seeing a New Doctor
There are instances where you will find yourself seeing a new doctor. This doctor will not know anything about you, particularly your condition. It is very important that you provide all the pertinent details regarding your condition including the diagnosis and treatments received. Gather all your records soon after you have finished your treatment.
The following documents are vital and should come in handy:
- Pathology report (or reports) from biopsies or surgeries
- A copy of your operative report (if you had surgery)
- A copy of your discharge summary (if you were admitted to the hospital)
- A copy of the treatment summary for radiation therapy
- A copy of the list of drugs and dosage when you took the drugs (if you had chemotherapy)
- Results of x-rays and other imaging studies