Further tests after diagnosis

If 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. Tests may include:

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

Waiting for your test results can be difficult. It can help to talk about your worries with someone close to you. Or you could call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Further tests for cervical cancer

If 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. This is called staging. It will help your doctors plan your treatment. These tests may include any of the following:

Blood tests

Samples of your blood may be taken to check your general health, the number of blood cells in your blood (blood count) and to see how well your kidneys are working. We have more detailed information about blood tests.  

Chest x-ray

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

MRI scan

An MRI scan 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 is safe for you. The checklist asks about any metal implants you may have, such as a pacemaker, surgical clips or bone pins, etc.

You should also tell your doctor if you have 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 is likely that you will not be able to have an MRI scan. In this situation, another type of scan can be used. Before the scan, you will be asked to remove any metal belongings including jewellery.

Some people are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm, which does not 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 will lie very still on a couch inside a long cylinder (tube) for about 30 minutes. It is painless but can be slightly uncomfortable, and some people feel a bit claustrophobic. It is also noisy, but you will be given earplugs or headphones. You can hear, and speak to, the person operating the scanner.

CT (computerised tomography) scan

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 to 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.

CT scan
CT scan

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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 is important to let your doctor know if you are allergic to iodine or have asthma, because you could have a more serious reaction to the injection.

You will probably be able to go home as soon as the scan is over.

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 cannot 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. You will wait for at least an hour before you have the scan. It usually takes 30 to 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, done under a general anaesthetic. It allows your doctor to examine you thoroughly and check the extent of the cancer without causing you discomfort. They may also remove small samples of tissue (biopsy).

During the EUA, your doctor may look into your bladder (cystoscopy) and the lower end of your large bowel (proctoscopy) to see if the cancer has spread.

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

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 can also provide support. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

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