December 01, 2018

Colorectal cancer

Managing recurrence risk

The rate of colorectal cancer survival five years after initial diagnosis has been on the rise. But with survival comes a new risk — that of colorectal cancer recurrence.

Colorectal cancer recurrence within five years after treatment ends is in the range of 7 to 42 percent depending on the stage of the cancer.

The risk of cancer recurrence is understandably a common source of worry and anxiety for many who have had this cancer. Although the risk of recurrence can't be entirely eliminated, people and their doctors can take steps to reduce risk — and to increase the chances that a recurrence is detected early, if it does happen.

Cancer surveillance

The exact details of programs for surveillance are somewhat controversial and may vary based on your doctor's recommendations. In general, Mayo Clinic cancer doctors follow three main steps, which include:

  • Follow-up colonoscopy — After surgery to remove a colon or rectal cancer, a follow-up colonoscopy is generally performed one year later. If that result is normal, subsequent follow-up intervals of three to five years are often recommended depending on the results. There are a number of factors that may result in a modified schedule.

    Due to the potential for recurrence in people treated for rectal cancer, periodic examination of the rectum may be warranted — in addition to the colonoscopy recommendations above.

  • Blood test for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) — Elevated...