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Follow-Up Care for Colorectal Cancer

Follow-up care after treatment for colorectal cancer is very important. Regular checkups can help ensure that any changes in your health are noticed, and if the cancer returns, it can be treated as soon as possible.

How Is a Recurrence of Colorectal Cancer Detected?

As with any disease, early detection is important for successfully treating a recurring colorectal cancer. Being open with your doctor about any signs or symptoms, or changes in your health, will help him or her evaluate your risk for recurrent cancer. Open dialogue with your doctor also has other benefits, such as providing an opportunity to discuss prevention, diet, new treatments, and other health concerns.

The following are screening recommendations following treatment for colorectal cancer:

  • Regular exams with your doctor A regularly scheduled, routine physical examination is important to check for any signs of recurrence.
  • ColonoscopyMany doctors recommend routine colonoscopy at 6 to 12 months after surgery. If results are normal, a colonoscopy is recommended to be performed three years after that. If results are normal, follow-up colonoscopies should be performed every 5 years.
  • A "CEA" test Some, but not all, cancers shed a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) into a person's bloodstream. This CEA protein can be a sign that colorectal cancer has returned. This blood test should be done every three months for the first two years after your cancer diagnosis, then every six months for three years after that.
  • CT scans CT scans of the chest, abdomen and pelvis are recommended every 6 to 12 months for three years in patients at high risk for recurrence.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arnold Wax, MD on July 05, 2012
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