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Follow-Up and Recurrence

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Following treatment for colon cancer, it's critically important to monitor your recovery with frequent doctor visits and to pay attention to potential symptoms of recurrence. Johns Hopkins doctor explain what to look for.

After colon cancer treatment, vigilant surveillance must continue for several years. Early detection of recurrent or metastasized cancer yields the best possibility for cure or containment. For these reasons, at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, most colon cancer patients come for follow-up every three to six months for the first three years, and then every six to twelve months for two years afterwards.

While it is not productive to worry about recurrent cancer, it is important to be able to begin treating the cancer as soon as possible. Thus it’s a double bind. Signs and symptoms of cancer recurrence or metastases can be vague, especially when you are recovering from major treatment. It may be difficult to sort out new sensations from the ones you had before surgery.

Some symptoms doctors suggest you take seriously include:


  • Fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and anorexia. These could be connected with therapy, but can also be signs of cancer recurrence.


  • Abdominal pain and bowel blockage. Cancer can recur in the area of the bowel where it was treated or elsewhere in the colon. This may block normal bowel movements, so do report pain and constipation.


  • Nausea, vomiting, or yellow discoloration of eyes and skin may be signs of metastases to the liver.


  • Shortness of breath might indicate lung tumors.


  • Infrequent urination accompanied by hip or back pain can indicate that the cancer has spread to the urinary system skeleton.


Posted in Colon Cancer on April 22, 2008
Reviewed September 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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