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Tests You May Need Once You Know You Have Cervical Cancer

Once you know you have cancer, your doctor will do more tests. This is what your doctor is looking for:

  • The exact location of the cancer

  • How large the tumor is

  • Whether the cancer is in more than one place or has spread

It is recommended that you be treated by a gynecologic oncologist, a subspecialist in the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological cancers. You’ll have tests to determine the best treatment for you. You’ll probably have a few weeks to make decisions about your treatment.

Your doctor may perform certain tests to look for additional signs of cancer. These tests help show whether the cancer has spread. Here are some of the tests that may be used for cervical cancer.

Pelvic exam under general anesthesia. To more thoroughly look at your cervix to learn the stage of the cancer, your doctor may do a pelvic exam using general anesthesia. This means you will be asleep while it is happening. You may also have the following two procedures while you’re anesthetized:

  • Cystoscopy. During this test, the doctor looks at the inside of the bladder with a special instrument called a cystoscope. The doctor inserts this thin, flexible tool into the urethra and up into the bladder. This allows the doctor to see if the tumor has spread to the bladder.

  • Proctoscopy. For this test, the doctor uses a special instrument, called a sigmoidoscope. The doctor inserts this thin, flexible tool into your anus into the lower end of your large intestine. This allows the doctor to see if the cancer has spread to the rectum and the bottom part of the large intestine.

Chest X-ray. Doctors use this test to find out if the cancer has spread to the lungs.

Computed tomography (CT) scan. In this test, an X-ray beam moves around your body and takes pictures of your insides from many angles. These pictures are combined by a computer and show detailed cross-sections of the body.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test provides very clear pictures of the inside of the body. It helps check for the spread of cancer.

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP). An IVP is an X-ray of the kidneys, the bladder, and the internal tubes that carry urine, called the ureters. You may not need this test if you have a CT scan.

Positron-emission tomography (PET) scan. A PET scan uses glucose (sugar) that is tagged with a radioactive substance to see where cancer has spread. Cancer cells generally use more glucose than normal cells.

The gynecologic oncologist will decide which of these tests is best for you.