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Approach to the long-term survivor of colorectal cancer

David A Haggstrom, MD, MAS
Winson Y Cheung, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Larissa Nekhlyudov, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Diane MF Savarese, MD


Death rates from colorectal cancer (CRC) have declined progressively since the mid-1980s in the United States and in many other Western countries, and this has increased the number of long-term survivors. These survivors are experiencing the normal issues of aging, which may be compounded by the long-term effects of having had cancer and cancer therapy. Long-term survivors are at risk for a CRC recurrence (which is less common after the first five years following treatment), a new primary CRC, other cancers, and both short-term and long-term adverse effects of treatment. Additional issues for cancer survivors relate to psychological, reproductive, genetic, social, and employment concerns.

This topic review will provide an overview of the approach to the long-term adult survivor of CRC during the phase of care that follows the completion of active treatment. A general overview of cancer survivorship and a more detailed discussion of posttreatment surveillance for colorectal cancer recurrence following treatment is presented elsewhere. (See "Overview of cancer survivorship care for primary care and oncology providers" and "Surveillance after colorectal cancer resection".)


The transition from active treatment to posttreatment care is critical to long-term health. A committee established by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine the range of medical and psychosocial issues faced by cancer survivors recommended the following components of survivorship care [1]. (See "Overview of cancer survivorship care for primary care and oncology providers", section on 'General issues'.)

Surveillance for cancer recurrence or second cancers; assessment of medical and psychosocial late effects

Prevention of recurrent and new cancers, and of other late effects

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 10, 2017.
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