Colon Cancer

Can Colon Cancer Come Back After Treatment?

When people with colon cancer are treated early, they may achieve full long-term remission. People who have experienced colon cancer – even if their prognosis is good – may worry excessively that the disease will come back or recur. Cancer of the colon may recur at or near the original site.

Those who have had colon cancer are slightly more likely to develop other cancers. Therefore, regular follow-up by a doctor is important to detect cancer that has recurred or any new cancers early. This increases the changes of a long-term remission.

How-To Information:

People treated for colon cancer need to follow a schedule of ongoing testing for the presence of tumor regrowth or the appearance of a new tumor. Such a follow-up regimen may include:

  • A annual stool blood test
  • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy at regular intervals, depending on the individual
  • CEA tumor marker test, or CEA test, which measures the level of carcinoembryonic antigen in the bloodstream.

What is the CEA Marker Test?

CEA may be present in higher than normal levels in the blood of those with colon and rectal cancer and may indicate if cancer has recurred.

  • The results of a CEA tumor marker test are not 100% conclusive because CEA values are not elevated in all people with colon cancer.
  • An abnormally high level of CEA protein is sometimes found in people who do not have cancer, including those with non-cancerous growths.
  • The CEA test does not tell if cancer is present, but rather signals the need for additional diagnostic tests.
  • Researchers are investigating new tumor marker tests for use in people with colon cancer.

Need To Know:

After treatment for colon cancer:

  • Schedule follow-up appointments with your doctor.
  • Ask the doctor any questions regarding treatment.
  • Discuss fears and concerns with the doctor or other healthcare professional. Mention any symptom that is worrisome. After treatment, there may be new symptoms, most of which are not serious.

Consider finding a support group. Many people find it helpful to talk to others who were also treated for colon cancer.


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