For cancer patients, the only thing worse than being diagnosed with cancer is being told you now have a cancer recurrence. This means you have been diagnosed a second time, and the cancer has come back somewhere in your body. If you or a loved one has had colon cancer, here’s what you should know about recurrence.
When Recurrence Commonly Occurs
In order to be in remission, every sign of cancer cells must be gone.
If there is a recurrence, it will usually show up after the first year of completed treatment. Sometimes when the patient goes for follow up exams during the first several months it can be diagnosed, but it’s difficult to distinguish between a recurrence or a more advanced stage that has not eliminated all the cancer cells through previous treatments.
Sometimes the cancer shows up in the same place as the original, and this is known as a local occurrence.
If the recurrent cancer shows up in lymph nodes, this is called a regional occurrence.
If the cancer shows up in other parts of your body, this is known as metastatic cancer, or a distant recurrence.
Remission means there are no signs of detectable cancer cells in the body, but that does not mean it cannot come back. After five years with no recurrence, it is commonly thought that a patient is in full remission and “cured.”
Most cancer survival stats do not take into account all the variable factors involved including the stage of cancer and the treatments.
The American Cancer Society tells us that the percentage of patients likely to survive for at least 5 years depends on the cancer stage.
- Localized 89%
- Regional 71%
- Distant 15%
Once a patient has been successfully treated for colon cancer, the follow up appointments may be every 3 months. This is because 60 – 80% of colon cancer recurrence is within 2 years of the original diagnosis/malignancy.
What Symptoms To Look For
The signs of recurrence are the same as the original colon cancer symptoms, like abdominal pain, weight loss, constipation or diarrhea. It is also quite common to have no symptoms at all.
The most important factor to remember is that the sooner you are diagnosed with a recurrence, the better your chances for survival. Because of this, don’t skip follow up appointments or any tests Colorectal Surgical Associates wants you to have done, such as an endoscopy or colonoscopy.
Be Cautious But Realistic
You can’t control whether you will have a recurrence, and worrying too much won’t help. What you can do is go to every follow up appointment, make some changes to your lifestyle, and make healthy changes to your diet.
Other precautions include the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Moderate coffee consumption
- Eat lean proteins
- Take a low dose aspirin
- Eat fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, and whole grains
- Eat healthy fats like olive oil
- Do moderate exercise
- Reduce your sugar intake
- Consume processed and red meats