Life After Colon Cancer

Quality of life?it?s a term that gets thrown around a lot when people are sick. The phrase refers to how well you can live the life you want and how happy you are during it. For patients with life-threatening conditions like colorectal cancer, it?s common to wonder, ?What will I be like after my chemotherapy or radiation are over?? It?s a question that can be hard to answer and the truth is that life after cancer can look very different from patient to patient. How your life changes will depend greatly on your cancer?how advanced it was, its type and location, and if it had spread at the time of diagnosis so keep that in mind as we move forward.

How common is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women. Your chance of developing it rises with age and the risk is about 1 in 21 for men and 1 in 23 for women. Thanks to advances in screening and identification, the rate of colon cancer deaths have been on the decrease for many years.

Until now patients may have relied on tests like a colonoscopy or family history to determine their risk for developing colon cancer, but new breakthroughs could provide additional information. Companies like Pathway Genomics offer you and your doctor options to find out what?s happening on a genetic level and identify specific genes that may raise your risk for colon cancer. This information can help you and your doctor decide what screening tools and preventive approaches to put in place to keep you living healthy longer.

Life after cancer
It?s normal to experience changes in your mental and physical health after cancer. Here are some areas where you may notice a difference:

  • Emotions: It?s normal to have emotional ups and downs during colon cancer treatment. Whatever journey you face, there?s sure to be some fear about the future, and some worry that the cancer will return or spread. Depression and anxiety may also develop after treatment. Talk to your doctor, a loved one or friend about your feelings or seek out a support group for survivors.
  • Physical changes: In some cases, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy will change the way your body looks. Hair loss is temporary but other differences?like a permanent colostomy bag can leave you feeling unattractive or limited. Talk to your enterostomal therapist about how you can enjoy activities again.
  • Sexual changes: Medical treatments and surgery can change the way your body responds to sexual stimulation or you may struggle with changes to your physical appearance that make you feel unattractive. It?s important to talk over your worries with your partner and if necessary and see a therapist who specializes in sexual health to decide how to manage your physical or mental barriers. Sexual insecurities are common for both men and women with cancer.
  • Lifestyle changes: There?s never a better time to get healthy than today?even if you are recovering from cancer. Take this time to look closely at how you can live better now. This might mean kicking your smoking habit, reducing or eliminating alcohol, eating better and adopting an exercise routine. Talk to your doctor about any exercise or nutrition routines you may want to consider before starting a new program. While, it may seem like a lot to manage, your body has been through a lot and you can actually heal more effectively, boost your mood and raise your energy levels with a healthy lifestyle.

Are you or someone you love at risk for colon cancer? Talk to your doctor for more information. Learn about what you can expect and the changes you can make for life after cancer.

Last editorial review: June 18, 2016.

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