There is always a risk that colon cancer can come back, even if you've had successful treatment in the past. While this is a worrying time, you might be able to have further treatments at this stage. Your options mainly depend on where the new problem lies.
Your medical team will have to establish whether the returning cancer is localized in your colon or if it has come back in other parts of your body. This location affects your treatment choices. What do you need to know?
How Do Doctors Treat a Return of Local Colon Cancer?
Some patients find that their cancer comes back in their colon after surgery or treatment. If you have a local recurrence, then the cancer tumor is only in your colon. It hasn't spread anywhere else and doesn't affect other parts of your body.
If the tumor is suitable for surgery, then your doctor might recommend that they remove it. This works best if you catch it early when it is small.
In some cases, your doctor might recommend that you have chemotherapy after surgery even if they have successfully removed the tumor. If it has come back after your initial treatment, chemotherapy might give you extra protection against another return in the future.
If the returning tumor is too big to be removed surgically then your doctor might reverse the treatment and give you chemotherapy first. Chemotherapy can reduce the size of a tumor over time, potentially making it small enough to be surgically removed.
How Do Doctors Treat Returning Cancer in Other Areas?
Sometimes, your colon cancer returns but doesn't appear in your colon this time. You might have a cancer diagnosis in another part of your body. For example, you might get a tumor on your liver.
Your treatment options here might be different than if your cancer was localized at its original site. Your medical team will need to focus on the new cancer and treat it accordingly. Your options also depend on the stage of your new cancer and its spread.
Sometimes, surgery is still an option. For example, doctors can remove tumors from livers in some cases, either with or without the help of chemotherapy. They can also use specialized procedures to destroy liver tumors by blasting them with radio waves or by freezing the cancer cells to kill them.
If surgery isn't an option, or if cancer has spread to other areas, then you might need to have chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy. These options put you in a better position to have surgery down the line.
Treatments for recurring cancers vary from patient to patient. To find out more about your options, talk to a doctor about colon cancer treatment.