Further tests after diagnosis

After being diagnosed with cervical cancer, you may have further tests to check your general health and whether the cancer has spread. Tests you may have include:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan – this uses magnetism to build up a picture of your body
  • CT (computerised tomography) scan – this uses x-rays to build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of your body
  • PET/CT (positron emission tomography) scan– this uses low-dose radiation to identify areas of cancer
  • EUA (examination under anaesthetic) – this allows the doctor to examine the vagina and cervix while you are under general anaesthetic
  • Blood tests
  • Chest x-ray.

Waiting for your test results can be difficult. It can help to talk about your worries with someone close to you.

Further tests for cervical cancer

If your initial tests show you have cervical cancer, you will need to have further tests to see whether the cancer has spread beyond the cervix and to check your general health. These tests may include any of the following:

MRI scan

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, such as a pacemaker, surgical clips, bone pins, etc. 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 can hear, and speak to, the person operating the scanner.

CT scan

A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-rays to build a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the inside of the body. You may be given either a drink or injection of dye. This is to make certain areas of the body show up more clearly. This scan takes about 30 minutes and is painless. We have more detailed information about having a CT scan.

PET-CT scan

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. A PET scan 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 one. You can't eat for six hours before the scan, although you may be able to drink. A mildly radioactive substance is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The radiation dose used is very small. The scan is done after at least an hour’s wait. It usually takes 30–90 minutes. You should be able to go home after the scan.

Examination under anaesthetic (EUA)

This is an examination of the vagina and cervix under a general anaesthetic. It allows your doctor to examine you thoroughly without it being uncomfortable. They may also remove a small sample of tissue (biopsy). Your 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.

Your doctor will use a cystoscope to look in to your bladder. This is a small, fibre-optic tube with a light. If there are any abnormal areas, they can use the cystoscope to take biopsies. Your doctor will use a similar tube called a proctosigmoidoscope to look into the lower end of your colon and rectum. This is also used to take biopsies from any abnormal areas.

You may have some slight bleeding for a couple of days after an EUA. Your doctor or nurse will be able to tell you more about the examination and what to expect afterwards.

Blood tests

You may have blood samples taken to check your general health and how well your liver and kidneys are working. Sometimes, doctors will use specific blood tests to diagnose and monitor your cancer. We have more detailed information about having a blood test.

Chest x-ray

This uses x-rays to take a picture of your chest, to check your lungs and heart.

Waiting for test results

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. It may take from a few days to a couple of weeks for the results of your tests to be ready. You may find it helpful to talk with your partner, family or a close friend. Your specialist nurse or one of the organisations listed on our database, can also provide support. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Tests and scans