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Vaginal cancer

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Follow-up after treatment for vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer behaves differently in each woman, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. Women with vaginal cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the surgeon, cancer specialists (oncologists) and the family doctor.

After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:

  • recurrent vaginal bleeding
  • worsening pain in the pelvis, back or legs
  • new changes in bladder or bowel habits
  • acute swelling in the legs

The chance of vaginal cancer recurring is greatest within 3 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time.

Schedule

Follow-up after vaginal cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled:

  • every 3 months for the first 3 years
  • every 6 months for years 4 and 5
  • once a year after 5 years

Procedures

During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how the person is coping. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:

  • feeling the lymph nodes in the pelvis and groin
  • pelvic examination and rectal examination
  • Pap test – even if surgery has been done

Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (has recurred).

  • complete blood count
  • imaging tests – to check response to treatment, detect recurrences or investigate new symptoms
    • chest, pelvic or abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan
    • chest x-ray
    • positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • blood chemistry tests – to see how well the organs are functioning

If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about follow-up after treatment.

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