Colon Cancer (cont.)
Once your cancerous colon has been removed and you
receive any other treatment recommended by your cancer care team, you will see
your gastroenterologist or cancer specialist (oncologist) regularly for follow-up visits. These visits will allow your team to see if the cancer has spread and to detect newly formed cancers.
These follow-up visits should include, at minimum, the following:
- Colonoscopy within 3 months after your surgery
- Colonoscopy 1 year after surgery and every 3 years after that.
- Test for occult (hidden) blood in your stool every year, followed by colonoscopy if the test result is positive
A screening tool-measurement of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level-is available to test for cancer recurrence following cancer surgery.
- CEA is a protein normally found in trace amounts in your bloodstream but is present in increased amounts in people with colon cancer. It is referred to as a tumor marker.
- Blood CEA levels should be measured before colon cancer surgery and then at intervals of 2-3 months.
- Increasing levels of serum CEA may indicate that colon cancer has come back and that you should seek further evaluation.
- Once you have had several blood tests with negative results, you probably don't need to continue the tests indefinitely. However, no one is sure how long you should continue to have the tests.
- You should discontinue screening tests if you have other health problems that make you unfit to undergo treatment for a recurrence of your colon cancer.
Robert J Fingerote, MD, MSc, BSc
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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