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Bowel cancer health centre

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Will my bowel cancer come back?

Even after treatment for bowel cancer, there is a risk that your cancer will come back. 75% of men are expected to survive their bowel cancer for at least one year after treatment, falling to 54.2% surviving five years or more, according to Cancer Research UK. For women, the survival rates are similar with 74% expected to survive for one year or more, and 55.6% surviving at least five years.

What is the outlook following treatment for bowel cancer?

Every person is different and responds differently to bowel cancer treatment. However, with prompt and appropriate treatment, the outlook for someone with bowel cancer is hopeful. The survival rate for people with bowel cancer depends on the extent of the cancer at the time of diagnosis (the stage of the cancer) and the person's response to treatment. In addition, many new scientific discoveries have the potential for improving the treatment of bowel cancer, as well as the prognosis.

The following factors determine how well a person will do after treatment for bowel cancer:

  • Size of the cancer. The size of the tumour and how deep it has gone into the tissue affects whether or not it will return. The deeper the tumour invades tissues, the higher the chance of recurrence.
  • Number of lymph glands involved. The lymphatic system helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances. The more lymph glands that have been affected by the cancer, the more likely the cancer will return.
  • Spread to other organs. If the colorectal cancer is discovered in the later stages, it may have spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs. This may increase the chances of the cancer recurring. In this case, additional chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be needed to help prevent further spread of the cancer.
  • Quality of the surgery. This is most important for rectal cancers, where surgery can be difficult.

Many people who have had bowel cancer live normal life spans. The treatments available today offer a lot of hope, but you may need several treatments or a combination of treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to have the best chance of preventing any recurrence of cancer.

What happens if bowel cancer comes back?

If bowel cancer has come back in only one part of the body, treatment may consist of an operation to remove the cancer. If the cancer has spread to several parts of the body, a specialist may offer either chemotherapy or radiotherapy. You also may choose to participate in a clinical trial testing new chemotherapy medications or biological therapy.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 14, 2012

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