- Pictures of Colorectal (Colon) Cancer - Slideshow
- Pictures of Digestive Disease Myths - Slideshow
- Medical Illustrations of Colon Cancer Image Collection
- Patient Comments: Colon Cancer - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Colon Cancer - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Colon Cancer - Treatment
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
- Colon cancer facts
- What is cancer?
- What is cancer of the colon and rectum?
- What are the causes and risk factors of colon cancer?
- What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?
- What tests can be done to detect and diagnose colon cancer?
- What are the stages of colon cancer?
- What are the treatments and survival rates for colon cancer?
- What is the follow-up care for colon cancer?
- What is the prognosis for patients with colorectal cancer?
- Is it possible to prevent colon cancer?
Quick GuideColon Cancer: Symptoms, Signs, Screening, Stages
What is the follow-up care for colon cancer?
Follow-up exams are important for people with colorectal cancer. The cancer can come back near the original site, although this is unusual. If the cancer returns, it typically does so in a distant location such as the lymph nodes, liver, or lungs. Individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer remain at risk of their cancer returning for up to 10 years after their original diagnosis and treatment, although the risk of recurrence is much higher in the first few years. Medical providers in the United States follow patients with physical examinations and blood tests including the CEA (if it was elevated before surgery) tumor marker every 3 months for the first 2 years and then with decreasing frequency thereafter. Patients are also followed with colonoscopies (starting 1 year after their diagnosis) and with CT scans (typically performed at least once yearly for the first 2 to 5 years).
If a recurrence is noted either locally or with metastatic spread, individuals may still be treated with the intention of cure. For example, if a new tumor were to recur in the liver, individuals can be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and surgery (or sophisticated radiation techniques) in hopes of eradicating the cancer completely. Evaluation in hospitals of excellence that specialize in liver surgery can help guide these complicated treatment decisions and increase the chances of cure even in the setting of metastatic disease.
In addition to checking for cancer recurrence, patients who have had colon cancer may have an increased risk of cancer of the prostate, breast, and ovary. Therefore, follow-up examinations should include these areas as well.