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Surviving Colorectal Cancer

Oct 18, 2017

Many people survive colorectal cancer after their treatment removes or destroys the disease. Reaching the end of treatment is both exciting and stressful.

Many people survive colorectal cancer after their treatment removes or destroys the disease. Reaching the end of treatment is both exciting and stressful. Of course, you will worry about your cancer coming back. Most people surviving cancer do.

Some people never completely achieve remission of their colorectal cancer. Others undergo regular treatment with chemo, radiation and other methods to keep their cancer controlled. Sometimes living with even controlled cancer is very stressful.

Whether your colorectal cancer goes into remission or you must focus on keeping your cancer controlled, life after your cancer treatment means going back to familiar daily life and integrating new choices in your life.

What is a survivorship care plan?

Your doctor develops a survivorship care plan, if you ask for one. This plan includes:

  • Schedule for follow up testing and exams
  • Schedule for other cancer screening tests, as well as tests for long-term health effects from your disease or treatments
  • List of possible side effects from your colorectal cancer treatment, with advice on when to contact the doctor
  • Suggestions for your diet and physical activity
  • Appointment reminders for general healthcare visits

Post-Colorectal Cancer Follow-Up

Even after completing your colorectal cancer treatment, you will still have important follow-up visits with your treatment team. These appointments are important. Your doctor examines you, asks about any problems you are having, possibly orders lab tests or imaging studies and reviews your general health.

Some side effects from your colorectal cancer treatment last a long time. Others do not start until years after completing your treatment. During your doctor visits, ask questions and discuss changes you have noticed or problems you are having.

Visiting Your Doctor

After colorectal cancer your doctor will likely recommend physical exams on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. This usually continues for a few years after treatment. With cancer caught early and if treatment provides positive results, your exams may recur on a less frequent basis.

Your doctor will recommend several procedures, imaging studies and lab tests in the years after your cancer treatment. For colorectal cancer, these recommendations generally include:

  • Colonoscopy in the first year, three years later and then every five years if no abnormalities are found
  • Imaging tests like CT scans annually or biannually
  • Blood tests to find tumor markers called carcinoembryonic antigen

Maintaining Health Insurance and Medical Records

It is very important to keep your health insurance, even after your colorectal cancer treatment ends. Tests and appointments you will need in coming years are very expensive. Your cancer could recur at any time, too.

When you see new doctors after cancer treatment, you need your medical records for them to understand the details of your cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Dealing with Long-Term Side Effects of Colorectal Cancer

Most colorectal cancer side effects go away after your treatment ends. But some of these side effects remain and require special attention. Examples of lasting side effects for some patients include a colostomy or ileostomy. With these, you suffer some fear or insecurity when faced with daily activities. But a trained healthcare professional works with people experiencing these changes and effects. They teach you how to care for yourself and manage other side effects.