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Follow-up Schedule for Patients Who Have Been Treated for: Colon Cancer

This information will help guide you through your long-term follow-up care after your treatment. 

Your schedule of visits and follow-up tests will depend on your diagnosis. Your doctor and surgeon will determine this plan.These visits are an important part of your care. They let you and your doctor discuss any new findings or symptoms. They also help increase the chance of finding any sign of the cancer returning. You should also have regular visits with your local doctor. He or she will manage the healthcare needs that are not part of your cancer treatment.

Follow-up Visits

You will have a physical exam and assessment at each of these visits. Your doctor will also decide if you need a blood test or any other tests. These visits may occur more often in the first few years after your treatment. The number of visits will decrease over time.

Follow-up visit schedule

Years After Surgery

Frequency of Visits

1 to 2

Every 3 to 6 months

3 to 5

Every 6 months

After 5

Once a year

Please ask your doctor or nurse if you have to do any bowel preparation before your visits. The bowel preparation will clear waste from your colon and rectum for the exam. Your nurse can give you instructions on how to do the bowel preparation, if you need it.

The tests at your visits may include:

Colonoscopy

The lower part of your colon may be examined during each visit. Still, you should also have a full colonoscopy. You can have this done with a local gastroenterologist or at MSKCC. Your colonoscopy schedule is:

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Your doctor may examine your rectum and lower colon with a colonoscope. It is used to check for polyps (abnormal growth of tissue), other cancers, or anything abnormal.

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test

A CEA test is a blood test. High levels of CEA in your blood can mean that a cancer has returned or spread to other parts of your body. The normal range of CEA blood levels varies from lab to lab. Because of this, try to have all of your CEA tests done at the same lab. CEA tests are not used as a screening or diagnostic test. They are usually not enough to diagnose or rule out colorectal cancer.

Additional tests

Your doctor may request additional tests during your follow-up visits. These tests are based on your examinations and on any concerns that you may have. These are described below:

Name of Test

Frequency

   
   
   
   
   

The Colorectal Cancer Survivorship Program

MSKCC offers survivorship programs for patients who have completed cancer treatment. A few years after your surgery, you can join the Colorectal Cancer Survivorship Program. Your doctor will decide when you are ready to move into survivorship care.

This program will help you recover from the physical and emotional effects of cancer and your treatment. You will receive your care from a nurse practitioner (NP) who is an expert in the care of cancer survivors. He or she is a member of your colorectal cancer team and works closely with the doctors and nurses who treated you. Your NP will recommend cancer screenings for you and discuss ways to prevent new health problems.