What Can I Expect After Colorectal Cancer Treatment?

Every person is different and responds differently to colorectal cancer treatment. With prompt and appropriate treatment, there’s good reason to be hopeful about your future.

Many people who have had colorectal cancer live a normal life. You may need several treatments or a combination that includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy to have the best results. 

Two key things that matter are the extent of the cancer when you were first diagnosed and how much treatment helped.

Could It Come Back?

For most people, it doesn’t come back, or “recur.” But in about 35% to 40% of people treated for colorectal cancer with surgery and with or without chemotherapy, the cancer may come back within 3 to 5 years after treatment. If it does come back, it could be in the colon or rectum, or in another part of the body, such as the liver and lungs.

What Affects the Odds of Recurrence?

Some of the things that matter include:

Depth of penetration: How deep the original tumor went into your tissue affects whether or not it will return. The deeper the tumor invades tissues, the higher the chance of recurrence.

Number of lymph nodes involved: The more lymph glands that were affected by the cancer, the more likely your cancer will return.

Spread to other organs: If the cancer was also in other organs, such as the liver or lungs, it’s more likely to come back.

Quality of the surgery: This is most important for rectal cancers, where the surgery can be hard to do.

What Happens if Colorectal Cancer Comes Back?

If it recurs in only one part of the body, you may need an operation to remove it. If it has spread to several parts of the body, you may need chemotherapy with or without radiation. Targeted therapy and immunotherapy may also be part of your treatment. You may consider joining a clinical trial, where researchers study new treatments to see how well they work.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 16, 2018



American Cancer Society: "Colorectal Cancer Overview."

NIHSeniorHealth: "Colorectal Cancer."

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