Survival after 5 years for colon cancer

Timothy C. Hoops, MD
Last Modified: September 1, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Are there survival statistics available for review by the colon cancer patient beyond the "generic 5 year overview"? What are the age guidelines for my three sons to be screened? I had surgery for a B2 T3 tumor with no lymph node involvement after the routine sigmoscope exam given to 50 year old.  

Answer

Timothy C. Hoops, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine at Radnor, responds:

In general, it is felt that a 5-year survival equates to a cure for colon cancer. Unlike cancers such as breast or melanoma, in which one can have cancer recurrences as long as 15 years after treatment of the original tumor, this does not seem to happen with colon cancer. I am sure there may be a case or more reported of this occurring, but it would be very unusual. I am unaware of any statistics for this occurrence. You are at risk for the development of a second colon cancer in the colon and that risk may be at least 20%, or higher, over time. That is the rationale for repeat colonoscopies.

As to your children, with no other family history of colon cancer, I would recommend that they begin screening colonoscopies at age 40 and have them every 5 years, as long as nothing is found. If polyps are found, repeat studies every 2 to 3 years until a negative study should be done.