Tests after diagnosis of cervical cancer
Your gynaecologist will need to do some further tests to check your general health and see whether the cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
The tests may include any of the following:
A sample of blood is taken to check the number of cells in your blood (your blood count), and to see how well your kidneys and liver are working.
This is to check that your lungs and heart are healthy.
Examination under anaesthetic (EUA)
Back to top
This is an examination of the vagina and cervix under a general anaesthetic. It allows the doctor to examine you thoroughly without it being uncomfortable. The doctor may also look into your bladder and the lower end of your large bowel (the colon and rectum) to see if the cancer has spread.
To look into your bladder the doctor will use a cystoscope, which is a small, fibre-optic tube with a light. If there are any abnormal areas, the doctor can use the cystoscope to take biopsies. To look into the lower end of the colon and the rectum, the doctor uses a similar tube called a proctosigmoidoscope. The proctosigmoidoscope is also used to take biopsies from any abnormal areas.
You may have some slight bleeding for a couple of days after this examination. Your healthcare professional will be able to give you more information about the examination and what to expect afterwards.
CT (computerised tomography) scan
Back to top
A CT scan takes a series of x-rays, which build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. The scan takes 10-30 minutes and is painless. It uses a small amount of radiation, which is very unlikely to harm you and will not harm anyone you come into contact with. You will be asked not to eat or drink for at least 3-4 hours before the scan.
You may be given a drink or injection of a dye, which allows particular areas to be seen more clearly. This may make you feel hot all over for a few minutes. It’s important to let your doctor know if you’re allergic to iodine or have asthma, because you could have a more serious reaction to the injection.
You’ll probably be able to go home as soon as the scan is over.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
Back to top
This test uses magnetism to build up a detailed picture of areas of your body. The scanner is a powerful magnet, so you may be asked to complete and sign a checklist to make sure it’s safe for you. The checklist asks about any metal implants you may have, for example a pacemaker, surgical clips or bone pins. You should also tell your doctor if you’ve ever worked with metal or in the metal industry, as very tiny fragments of metal can sometimes lodge in the body. If you do have any metal in your body, it’s likely that you won’t be able to have an MRI scan. In this situation another type of scan can be used.
Before the scan you’ll be asked to remove any metal belongings, including jewellery. Some people are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm, which doesn’t usually cause discomfort. This is called a contrast medium and can help the images from the scan to show up more clearly. During the test you’ll lie very still on a couch inside a long cylinder (tube) for about 30 minutes. It’s painless but can be slightly uncomfortable, and some people feel a bit claustrophobic. It’s also noisy, but you’ll be given earplugs or headphones. You’ll be able to hear, and speak to, the person operating the scanner.
This is a combination of a CT scan, which takes a series of x-rays to build up a three-dimensional picture, and a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which uses low-dose radiation to measure the activity of cells in different parts of the body.
PET/CT scans give more detailed information about the part of the body being scanned. You may have to travel to a specialist centre to have a PET/CT scan.
You won’t be able to eat for six hours before the scan, although you may be able to have a drink. At least an hour before the scan, a mildly radioactive substance is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The radiation dose used is very small.
The scan itself usually takes 30-90 minutes. You should be able to go home after the scan.
It will probably take several days for the results of these tests to be ready. The waiting period will obviously be an anxious time for you. You may find it helpful to talk things over with your clinical nurse specialist, or with a relative or close friend. You can also contact one of our cancer support specialists, or a support organisation.