Watch for possible signs of recurrence
There are different types of symptoms to look out for: some need to be reported right away and others should be reported only if the symptoms last for a long time. The following symptoms are some of the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer recurrence.
If you have any of the signs listed below please report these to your oncologist, family doctor, nurse practitioner and/or primary care team immediately. If you are no longer seeing your oncologist, tell your family doctor, nurse practitioner and/or primary care team or go to the nearest emergency room and explain that you were told by your oncologist to watch for certain signs and report right away.
Signs to report immediately
- Chest pain/Shortness of breath
- Bloody/dark stools
- Rectal bleeding
- New abdominal or pelvic pain (sudden or severe pain)
- Symptoms of liver dysfunction (ex. swollen belly, pain in upper belly, mental confusion, yellow skin (jaundice)
- Symptoms of bowel obstruction (ex. narrowing of stools, fullness not relieved by defecation, constant abdominal cramping, swollen belly, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, fever, constipation, not passing wind)
Signs to report if they last longer than 2 weeks
- Weight loss
- Dry cough
- New abdominal or pelvic pain (pain that starts slowly)
- Changes in bowel habits from your new baseline (ex. persistent diarrhea, persistent constipation, mucus in the stool, urgent need to have a bowel movement, fullness not relieved by defecation)
- Changes in your sexual function from your new baseline (ex. erectile dysfunction, changes in ejaculation)
Track your symptoms
You can keep a journal to help you track how long a symptom is lasting. Track:
- When you first noticed the symptom
- What the symptom is
- Is it getting worse, better or staying the same
- Does anything make it worse or better
- Does it wake you from sleep
- Did you take medicine to help
- Did you seek medical help (doctor, emergency room, etc.)
Prepare for your follow-up appointments
To get the most out of your follow-up appointments consider the three tips below:
Bring someone with you to your appointments. It is always helpful to have support, and he or she can serve as a second set of ears. He or she may also be able to think of questions to ask your doctor or nurse or remember details about your symptoms you may have forgotten. Feel free to record your conversation so you can replay it later.
Prepare a list of questions beforehand. This way, you won’t forget to ask about something that is important to you. Be sure to write down anything that you are concerned about whether it is pain, depression or anxiety, or changes in your eating or sleep patterns. Make your questions specific and brief to make the most of the time you have. Once you are at your appointment, ask your most important questions first.
Write down your doctor’s answers. Taking notes will help you recall what your doctor or nurse said. It also allows you to go over the information later when you have more time to focus or do research.
Ensure your family doctor is monitoring your health
Your family doctor is an important part of monitoring your overall health. Tell your family doctor about your cancer, treatment and how you are feeling.
If you do not have a family doctor, get one. Call 1 800 445 1822 or visit the
Health Care Connect website [opens in new window].
Does your oncologist at Princess Margaret have your family doctor’s contact information? Call to make sure they do (416 946 2233), and check that the information on your file is up to date and correct. Your oncologist will need to send your health records to your family doctor.
Make appointments with your family doctor to perform routine medical tests as part of your regular check-ups and to screen for other possible illnesses (even other cancers). Some tests your family doctor will do as part of regular check-ups are: blood pressure and cholesterol checks, diabetes blood sugar tests, bowel and prostate screening tests.
Note: Ensure you also discuss all of your other health problems such as blood pressure and diabetes management with your family doctor.