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    Will my Colorectal Cancer Come Back?

    Even after treatment for colorectal cancer, there is a risk that your cancer will come back. In about 35% to 40% of people treated for colorectal cancer with surgery with or without chemotherapy, the cancer may come back within three to five years after treatment. The cancer may recur in the colon or rectum, or in another part of the body. Recurrent colorectal cancer often is found in the liver and/or lungs.

    What Is the Outlook Following Treatment for Colorectal Cancer?

    Every person is different and responds differently to colorectal cancer treatment. However, with prompt and appropriate treatment, the outlook for a person with colorectal cancer is hopeful. The survival rate for people with colorectal cancer depends on the extent of the cancer at the time of diagnosis and the person's response to treatment. In addition, many new discoveries have the potential for improving the treatment of colorectal cancer, as well as the prognosis.

    The following factors determine how well a person will do after treatment for colorectal cancer:

    • Depth of penetration: How deep the tumor has gone into the tissue affects whether or not it will return. The deeper the tumor invades tissues, the higher the chance of recurrence.
    • Number of lymph glands involved: The lymphatic system helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances. The more lymph glands that were affected by the cancer, the more likely your cancer will return.
    • Spread to other organs: If the colorectal cancer is discovered in the later stages, it may have spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs. This increases your chance that the cancer will recur or progress. In this case, additional chemotherapy or radiation may be needed to help prevent the further spread of the cancer.
    • Quality of the surgery: This is most important for rectal cancers, where the surgery can be difficult.

    Many people who have had colorectal cancer live normal life spans. The treatments available today offer a lot of hope, but you may need several treatments or a combination of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to have the best chance of curing cancer.

    What Happens if Colorectal Cancer Comes Back?

    If colorectal cancer has come back in only one part of the body, treatment may consist of an operation to take out the cancer. If the cancer has spread to several parts of the body, a doctor may give you chemotherapy with or without radiation. You also may choose to participate in a clinical trial testing new chemotherapy drugs or biological therapy.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on July 27, 2014
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