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Follow-up after brachytherapy

After your brachytherapy treatment has finished, your healthcare team will ask you to come back to the hospital for check-ups. This is so you continue to get the proper treatment and support.

We know that waiting for follow-up appointments can be difficult, which is why we are here to support you. You may find it helpful to give us a call on 0808 802 8000 before or after treatment, or speak with our 1:1 service.

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Treatment summary

Once your radiotherapy treatment is finished, you should be given a treatment summary. This is a document by your healthcare team that explains:

  • what treatments you have had
  • any side effects you might have
  • signs and symptoms to look out for 
  • a plan that has been made for your long-term care and support.   

This treatment summary should also be sent to your GP surgery, so they know how to support you too. You might want to check that the hospital have sent it to them.

Check-up appointments

You will also have check-ups with your healthcare team. You might see or speak to your consultant oncologist, clinical oncologist, or clinical nurse specialist (CNS). How often you have check-ups will depend on the exact treatment you have had and your individual situation. 

These check-ups will:

  • check how well treatment has worked
  • monitor any side effects 
  • provide you with support.

Where are check-up appointments done?

Your check-up appointments may be:

  • at the hospital
  • over phone or video call. 

The COVID-19 pandemic means it is more likely you will be offered a phone or video call check-up. This is because your healthcare team will be following safety rules put in place by the hospital, including limiting the number of people who come in. However, if you or your healthcare team would prefer that you go into the hospital, they will arrange this for you.

How often do check-up appointments happen?

You will usually have your first check-up appointment about 6 to 8 weeks after your brachytherapy treatment has finished. 

After this, how often you have check-up appointments can vary. You may have appointments:

  • every 3 to 6 months for first 2 years
  • every 6 to 12 months for the next 3 years.

Check-up appointments will happen less often as time goes on, as long as your healthcare team are happy with your recovery . 

Your healthcare team will be able to explain your individual follow-up plan. You may want to ask them for details at your first check-up appointment. 

What happens at check-up appointments?

Your check-ups appointments are a chance for you to let you healthcare team know how you are feeling, as well as for them to check how you are physically.

Your healthcare team should ask you questions about how you are feeling after brachytherapy. This is a good chance to tell them about any side effects you have and what support you might need.

They may also ask you to fill out a holistic needs assessment (HNA). You should have already completed this at diagnosis. Filling it out again now means they can track any changing needs and make sure you get the right support. If you aren’t offered an HNA, you can ask for it.

Read about the HNA on the Macmillan Cancer Support website > 

You might have physical examinations during your check-ups. 

A pelvic examination is done by a member of your healthcare team. They will wear new, clean gloves for the examination. The examination lasts for a few minutes. 

They will feel the inside of your vagina to check the area where you had treatment. They will be checking whether they can feel anything new that they might need to look at.

They might also use a speculum to gently open your vagina and look inside or, if you still have one, at your cervix. This may be to check any scarring from the brachytherapy, or for anything unexpected, such as discolouration or a lump.

They should explain each step before they do it, to make sure you are comfortable and consent to the examination. If you are uncomfortable or want to stop at any time, tell them.

You won’t usually have scans unless your healthcare team think you should have it. They might suggest it if you are having new symptoms. 

If you would feel more comfortable having a scan, it is important to ask for one. Your healthcare team might be able to arrange this for you.    

You will not need to go for cervical screening after brachytherapy. This is because the radiotherapy causes changes to the cells in your cervix, which may make them difficult to see under a microscope or more likely to give an incorrect result. Instead, your healthcare team will do the checks we talk about above.   

Your healthcare team should let your GP surgery know that you no longer need cervical screening. Your GP surgery will then tell the national Cervical Screening Programme, so you no longer get automatic invitations. If you still get an invite after brachytherapy, contact your healthcare team at the hospital so they can sort it out.

More information and support 

Waiting for follow-up appointments may make you feel anxious, especially if you are dealing with new side effects of brachytherapy and other treatments. Your healthcare team, both at the hospital and at your GP surgery, are there to support you with any questions or worries you have. 

Remember that we are here for you too. Our trained volunteers can listen and help you understand what’s going on via our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours > 

 

Sometimes connecting with others who have gone through a similar experience can be helpful. Our online Forum lets our community give and get support. You can read through the messages or post your own – whichever feels most comfortable.

Join our Forum > 

If you have general questions about brachytherapy, our panel of medical experts may be able to help. They can’t give you answers about your individual situation or health – it’s best to speak with your GP or healthcare team for that.

Use our Ask the Expert service > 

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 

References

  • British Gynaecological Cancer Society (2020). Cervical Cancer Guidelines: Recommendations for Practice. Web: www.bgcs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FINAL-Cx-Ca-Version-for-submission.pdf. Accessed October 2020.
  • Marth, C. et al (2017). Cervical cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. 28;s4: pp.iv72-iv83. 
  • Cibula, D. et al (2018). The European Society of Gynaecological Oncology/European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology/European Society of Pathology guidelines for the management of patients with cervical cancer. Radiotherapy Oncology. 127;3. pp.404-416.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected].

Read more about how we research and write our information >

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Date last updated: 
04 Nov 2020
Date due for review: 
02 Nov 2023
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