After the initial diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer, patients are placed on a shorter timeline between testing. Under normal conditions, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years after age 50. But after colon cancer is found and treated, patients may be asked to repeat the colonoscopy every one to three years. If early detection is important for successful treatment of colon cancer, it’s even more important to find and destroy reoccurrences of the cancer.
When colon cancer is found at the Stage 0 level, aggressive treatment with removal of the polyps or tumors is shown to have a 93% survival rate after five years. A patient is monitored carefully during that period to quickly identify any reoccurrence. Additional cancer that shows up during the five year period may not be a new outbreak but rather growth of cancer cells that were too small or hidden to find with the first surgery. If there is not recurrence five years after treatment, then a patient is considered cured of colon cancer.
In Stage II , a tumor protrudes out of the colon wall but does not involve lymph nodes. However in Stage III, the lymph nodes or other organs are invaded by the cancer. Both of these stages use chemotherapy and possibly radiation. The five year survival rate is 78% for Stage II and 64% for Stage III.
When the cancer progresses to Stage IV, notable damage is already done outside the colon which may involve the liver, lungs, ovaries or other organs. Surgical removal of portions of the organ damage as well as chemotherapy and radiation are part of the treatment mix. Even with all this effort, the five year survival rate is only 8%.
Colon cancer reoccurrence probability is highest for patients with Stage IV cancer. The cancer may return at the site of the polyps or tumors that were initially diagnosed as cancer. Reoccurrence may also be found when the cancer travels to other organs outside the colon. The secondary target of colon cancer seems to be the liver in which recurrent cancer is found in two thirds of colon cancer patients.
Northern California Institute for Research and Education is studying how diet can assist in therapy to treat or prevent reoccurrence of colon cancer. Initial findings report that a diet rich in fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish oil and Vitamins C and E can give the body support to reduce formation of new polyps. This group is also studying the effectiveness of Balsalazide, a tumor blasting drug that may reduce the size and amount of polyps over six months when early detection finds small polyps. If the research shows promise for this drug, then it may become a major “chemopreventative drug”. Balsalazide releases a chemical reaction that is akin to that of aspirin. This effect is what other researchers suggest is the same as taking low dose aspirin, as is used to reduce heart attack and stroke risk, for reducing colon cancer reoccurrence probability.