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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Follow-Up Care for Colorectal Cancer

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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 typical 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.
  • Colonoscopy Many doctors recommend routine colonoscopy within 6 months after surgery. If results are normal, a colonoscopy is usually recommended to be performed

    in one year and then 3 years if the exams are normal. Talk to your doctor about the schedule that is right for you.

  • A "CEA" test Some, but not all, cancers shed a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) into a person's bloodstream. Your doctor may check the CEA level before you start treatment and again after treatment to see if it has come down. If the CEA level begins to rise again, it may be a sign that the cancer has come back. This test is most useful in the first two years after treatment. This is when the cancer is most likely to return.
  • CT scans CT scans of the chest, abdomen and pelvis are recommended at regular intervals for three years in patients at high risk for recurrence.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 22, 2014
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