Life after treatment for bowel cancer
For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
For more on this, see Living well after cancer.
Learn more about:
- Having a stoma
- Managing bowel and dietary changes
- Follow-up appointments
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Looking after yourself
After treatment ends, you will have regular check-ups to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. You will usually have a physical examination and you may have blood tests (including checking of CEA levels), scans or regular colonoscopies.
How often you will need to see your doctor will depend on the level of monitoring needed for the type and stage of the cancer. Your doctor may want to see you two to four times a year for the first year, twice a year for the next few years, and then yearly for a few years.
Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment. Call 13 11 20 to find out more, or see Managing cancer side effects, Exercise during cancer treatment and Living well after cancer.
A/Prof Craig Lynch, Colorectal Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Tim Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, and Clinical Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, SA; Department of Dietetics, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Hooi Ee, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Debra Furniss, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis CancerCare, QLD; Jocelyn Head, Consumer; Jackie Johnston, Palliative Care and Stomal Therapy Clinical Nurse Consultant, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, NSW; Zeinah Keen, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Elizabeth Murphy, Head, Colorectal Surgical Unit, Lyell McEwin Hospital, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans
Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Nutrition after cancer treatment
Healthy eating habits to help you maintain good nutrition
Nutrition and cancer help for carers
Tips for preparing food for someone with cancer
Exercise and cancer
Exercise has many benefits both during and after cancer treatment, helping with side effects, speeding up recovery, and improving quality of life