Picture Perfect FightersOnce you have completed treatment, your doctor will want to continue seeing you for follow-up surveillance and care.

Colorectal cancer recurrence is most common within the first 5 years after treatment. Here’s a general guide on what doctors will recommend for follow up visits and testing:

Recommended Surveillance after Curative Treatment for CRC

Examination type Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Physical examination and history Every 3-6 months Every 3-6 months Every 6 months Every 6 months Every 6 months
CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen test) Every 3-6 months Every 3-6 months Every 6 months Every 6 months Every 6 months
Colonoscopy (colon and rectal cancer patients) Colonoscopy at 1 year (rectal cancer patients: may be done at 3-6 months if it was not done before surgery). If advanced adenoma found, repeat in 1 year; otherwise repeat in 3 years. If 3-year colonoscopy is clear, repeat every 5 years.
Sigmoidoscopy (for rectal cancer patients who received LAR) Every 6 months can be considered
Abdominal and chest CT scan (colon and rectal) and pelvic CT scan (recommended if primary tumor was located in the rectum) Yes Yes Yes As determined by your doctor As determined by your doctor

Adapted from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network treatment guidelines for colon and rectal cancer. These recommendations are guidelines only.

* One of the top reasons for recurrence is due to lack of follow-up screening. Talk to your health care team about screening and stay up to date!

Your primary care provider may be the doctor who knows the most about your complete medical history and follow-up care. Make sure your oncologist gives your primary care provider a copy of your comprehensive care summary for their records.

A history of cancer adds a slight risk for other cancers, so be sure to follow recommended cancer screening for prostate, breast, and cervical cancer, as appropriate. You should also receive flu and pneumonia vaccines annually.

Questions to Ask When Leaving Your Oncology Healthcare Team

  • Can I have a written comprehensive care summary (also known as summary care plan)?
  • What tests were done to diagnosis my colon or rectal cancer, including their results. When and where were these done?
  • What was my diagnosis? What was the stage, location of tumors, and levels of markers?
  • What family or personal medical history is important to my diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up?
  • What surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy did I receive? What dates did these occur, what dosages did I get and what reactions?
  • What clinical trials was I part of?
  • What other services did I receive — nutrition, psychological support, genetic counseling?
  • What is the full contact information for the places I received treatment and who were my key providers?
  • Who is the main person who will coordinate my follow-up care and how will I contact that person?

Questions for Your Primary Care Doctor When You Are Done With Treatment

  • What follow-up care will I need?
  • What’s the schedule for tests and procedures and who will provide them?
  • What long term side effects could I expect from treatment?
  • What are signs or symptoms of a possible recurrence or new cancer?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to help prevent recurrence?
  • What symptoms merit a call to the doctor?
  • Are there medicines or nutritional supplements I should be taking?
  • Do I need referrals to other health services such as genetic counselor?
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