Life After Colorectal Cancer
Life after colorectal cancer can bring a mixture of feelings moving forward, but one of the most important things to do for yourself is develop a survivorship plan. While this plan may be customized to your situation, your cancer treatment team can also help you create a plan that helps you live life as a colorectal cancer survivor. Here, we will go over some of the key parts of this plan and things you should keep in mind moving forward.
Follow-up Care for Colorectal Cancer Survivors
Follow-up care for colorectal cancer survivors is very important and can last for several years after treatment is complete. Not only will your cancer care team keep an eye on any new cancer development, but they can also help you with side effect management. Some side effects will go away with time, and others may appear after several weeks or months following treatment.
Each follow-up appointment with the cancer care team usually includes some tests to check your tumor markers as well as periodic visual exams of your colon. This is the time to talk to your oncologist about your health and any changes you may be experiencing or any pain you have.
It’s important to be honest and talk candidly with the oncologist. It can be a little embarrassing to discuss some of the side effects, or how your stool looks, but these things give important clues to your health and whether more testing might be a good idea.
Future Planning Gives Colorectal Cancer Survivors a Point of Focus
Creating a plan for your future can help keep your health a priority and help you feel like you have taken back control of your life. One of the challenges that many cancer survivors face is all of the emotions that come with the journey. If you’re struggling mentally, it’s important to reach out for help. Your oncologist may provide some assistance, but you may also reach out to social workers at the cancer treatment center.
Keep Medical Records Organized
You may quickly realize that there is a large amount of information that comes with a cancer diagnosis. It's not unusual for a cancer survivor to have a lengthy medical record. As you live as a survivor, you may need to see other doctors or specialists. It's important to keep all of your medical records organized. You may do this by compiling all of your information into a single folder, or you may have the option to get a digital copy of your records. You may need to recall this information later, and keeping it all together will be much simpler for you.
Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer Recurrence
Fortunately, there are some lifestyle changes that may help reduce your risk of getting colorectal cancer a second time in your life. Let's go over some of the small changes you can make to better the odds for your health.
- Maintain a healthy weight: there are many health advantages to maintaining a healthy weight. Research indicates that being overweight can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer or dying from it. Your doctor can help you find resources for getting to a healthy weight.
- Regular exercise: Just like being at a healthy weight, regular exercise has many health benefits. Staying physically active after treatment has proven to be an effective way to reduce the chances of colorectal cancer coming back. Talk with your doctor about which exercise routine is right for you.
- Eat a balanced diet: The foods that you eat will determine your weight. While there is not strong enough research that indicates a particular diet reduces your risk of colorectal cancer, it is better for your body overall to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and healthy proteins.
- Moderate alcohol consumption: Generally speaking, drinking alcohol in moderation is the healthiest plan. Most research supports one drink per day for women and one drink per day for men. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol can put you at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, but there is not much supporting evidence for how it impacts recurrence rates.
- Stop smoking: Smoking wreaks havoc on your health in more ways than one. Research indicates that smokers with colorectal cancer are more likely to die from the disease. Reach out to your doctor for support and resources for how to quit smoking.
Watch for Second Cancers
Survivors of colorectal cancer have a chance of developing colorectal cancer again at some point in their life, and in some cases, a second type of cancer may develop, such as:
- Second colon cancer
- Second rectal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Anal cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Small intestine cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Lung cancer
This doesn’t mean you’re going to definitely develop another type of cancer. But you should stay on schedule for screenings and pay attention to how you feel. Talk to your oncologist or primary care doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Cancer Care You Can Trust
The experts at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard work with each of our patients to create not only their cancer treatment plan but also a plan for life after cancer. If you have recently moved to Florida, or you're here for only part of the year, don’t skip your follow-up sessions. Contact one of our locations throughout the Space Coast, including Palm Bay, Melbourne, Merrit Island, and Rockledge, FL, for an appointment.