Cancer is a deadly disease. But if you have successfully fought it, you are a considered a survivor. With the good news of the termination of cancer treatment, there can lie some bad news as well.
Despite being informed that cancer is completely eliminated from your body by your oncologist, odds are it may recur. In the majority of the population, cancer doesn’t come back. Yet there’s 35-40 percent of the population that suffers from the recurrence of colon cancer.
What Causes Cancer To Recur?
For some people, the successful treatment of colon cancer can be stress relieving and exciting. But for others, the fear of cancer coming back can be distressing. It is a fact; there are chances that colon cancer may come back.
The better step you can take is to learn more about it to ease your mind. The first question that usually arises is; why do some colon cancers come back even after an apparent successful recovery? Scientists believe that colon cancer does not reoccur out of nowhere. Basically, the cancerous cells skipped past the given treatment and were small enough not to be seen on imaging. Or the cancerous cells might metastasize to other organs, but couldn’t be seen. In other words, you can say that the cancer was never completely eliminated. Within some months, the microscopic cancerous cells can regrow to present the signs and symptoms of cancer, and it is said that cancer has recurred. Lifestyle choices that increase the chances of having cancer can also predispose the individual for the recurrence of colon cancer.
What Increases The Chance Of Cancer Recurrence:
The chances of colon cancer recurrence is directly related to the staging and grading of cancer. Generally, the more advanced the cancer is, the greater the chance of the cancer to come back.
The other factor, that influences the chances of colon cancer recurrence, is the response to treatment of cancer. Following are the main factors that influence the chances of cancer returning.
- Extent Of Tissues Involvement:
To what level are the tissues affected by cancer determines whether or not the colon cancer can recur. The chances of cancer recurrence increases with the involvement of more tissues. The deeper the penetration of cancer in the tissues, the greater the odds of cancer recurrence.
Staging is the system to classify how far the cancer has spread. In highest stage cancer i.e. the stage 4 colon cancer, multiple organs get involved. If the cancer had affected other organs, there is greater chance of cancer to recur.
- Affected Lymph Nodes:
The cancer spreads most often through the lymphatic system. Metastasis of cancer causes involvement of the lymph nodes. By stage 3, cancer already involves regional lymph nodes. With more lymph node involvement in colon cancer, there is more likelihood of cancer recurrence.
- Quality Of Surgery:
Quality of surgery matters as in some cancers it is difficult to perform the surgery. This is especially true in the cancer of rectum. In colorectal cancers, it is hard to operate on. This may result in the recurrence of cancer.
Where Does Cancer Recur?
Cancer may recur in the same organ, and also in other organs. The increased chances of cancer recurrence is not only due to the still prevalent microscopic cancerous cells. The incidence of having another cancer, whether of the same organ or the other, can increase due to poor lifestyle choices as well.
Therefore, lifestyle modification is an important step to take even after the treatment of cancer. The recurrence of cancer is identified as:
If the cancer recurs at the initial location of cancer, which is the same organ in which the cancer was initiated i.e. colon.
If cancer is found in the regional lymph nodes, close to the site of origination of cancer.
If the cancer is present in some organ other than the primary one i.e. colon, in which cancer developed initially. This is also known as distant cancer.
Symptoms Of Recurrence Of Colon Cancer:
The symptoms associated with any disease are important to identify it in its early course. Symptoms associated with recurrent colon cancer are generally the same as the cancer developing for the first time. The most common symptoms are as follows:
- Local Symptoms:
- Changes in bowel habits like constipation or diarrhea
- Never satisfying urge to pass stool
- Blood in or around the stool
- Stomach pain or bloating
- Systemic Symptoms:
- Unexplained loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Vomiting or nausea
- Jaundice occasionally
Follow Up Is Important:
After the treatment of cancer, your doctor will schedule a follow up. This is done to monitor your care. The follow up is essential and you should not miss any appointments. Mostly, the follow up is scheduled after every three months. As the cancer may recur within 3 to 5 years, the follow up is important for prolonged duration. Although it is time consuming, it is worth it.
- Screening For Recurrence:
During the follow up, the most important outcome is the regular monitoring of the person. As colon cancer recurrence is a concern in more than one fourth of the population, people after the treatment of cancer should be emphatically cared for.
For this purpose, in follow up, the signs and symptoms are thoroughly investigated for potential cancer risks. Screening is, yet another technique, done to rule out any chances of cancer recurrence. Screening is important to identify the cancer before it starts exhibiting symptoms. If cancer has already recurred, screening helps to prevent the advancement of disease. Early diagnosis by your primary doctor and prompt intervention gives best results.
- Overcome The Long Term Effects Of Treatment:
Another advantage of follow up is to minimize the consequences of treatment. Most of the adverse effects end after the treatment, while some persist for a long time. The long term side effects of the treatment regimen is a concern and may require special care as well.
Can You Prevent The Recurrence Of Colon Cancer?
Cancer sufferers and survivors, are often concerned regarding the recurrence of colon cancer. The best question, about the recurrence of cancer, can be whether it can be prevented or at least the odds lowered. Fortunately, the answer is a positive one. There is strong evidence about lifestyle modifications, which certainly can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
- Maintain Ideal Body Weight:
The ideal weight is not a fixed value, rather it is a range of optimal measure. Obesity is positively associated with the development of cancer. Therefore, weight loss decreases the chances of cancer recurrence. However, it is not clear whether weight loss before or after the treatment has positive outcomes. Before initiating the management of weight, consult your doctor for the proper guidance and monitoring of any adverse consequences.
- Perform Exercise:
Being active is a strong factor, not only to prevent cancer, but also to decrease the incidence of many other diseases. Exercise greatly reduces the chances of colon cancer recurrence, and also decreases the mortality rate associated with it. The chances of cancer are lowered because of the positive effects of exercise on physiological functioning and improvement of overall quality of life.
- Have Healthy Diet:
Diet is another important factor to reduce the chances of recurrence of colon cancer. In general, consuming lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding saturated fat as in meat, significantly decreases the likelihood of colon cancer recurrence.
- Avoid Alcohol And Quit Smoking:
Alcohol and smoking, both are known to increase the chances of cancer, including colon cancer, and also other diseases. The association of recurrence of cancer, with consuming alcohol or smoking, is not clear. However increased deaths are reported in this population.
Don’t Stress Yourself:
Thinking about recurrence of colon cancer and how to prevent is beneficial, as it can act as a motivation to change the lifestyle associated with increased risk of cancer. However, it is not right to exhaust yourself by overthinking it.
What can help is to understand how cancer affects you and in response what you can do to improve your life. By modifying your lifestyle choices, you can certainly decrease the chances of colon cancer recurrence.
Colon cancer can recur even after successfully treating the cancer. But there is a bright side of this situation as you can take numerous steps to decrease the chances of it come back. Also, you can self-identify the symptoms before the disease progresses to an advanced stage.