Follow-up after treatment for small intestine cancer
Follow-up care lets your healthcare team keep track of your health for a period of time after treatment ends. This important part of cancer care is often shared among the cancer specialists and your family doctor. They will help you recover from treatment side effects and monitor you for any signs that the cancer has come back (recurred).
Follow-up care may not seem that important to you, especially if your treatment was long or very hard. You may find the idea of the follow-up care stressful because it reminds you of your cancer experience or because you are worried about what a test might reveal. Talk to your healthcare team about why follow-up matters, about how you feel and for any emotional support. Your healthcare team is there to help.
The following information is for small intestine adenocarcinoma. Other cancerous tumours of the small intestine may have different follow-up plans and schedules.
Schedule for follow-up visits @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Don't wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don't go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:
- new or increased pain
- changes in your bowel movements
- weight loss
- blood in your stool
- skin turn yellow (jaundice)
Small intestine adenocarcinoma often comes back (recurs). The chance of it recurring is greatest within 2 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.
Follow-up visits are usually scheduled every 3 months after the first treatment. If there are no signs of recurrence during this time, your doctor may schedule follow-up visits less often. In the years after your treatment ends, your doctor will work with you to determine how often you should have follow-up visits.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are important parts of feeling your best after treatment ends. Learn more about the benefits of eating well and being active.
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During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping.
Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:
- feeling the abdomen for any swelling or lumps
- checking your eyes and skin for jaundice, which may mean that cancer has spread to the liver
You may have the following tests as part of follow-up care:
- Liver function tests check how well the liver is working. Higher levels of certain substances may mean that small intestine adenocarcinoma has spread to the liver.
- A complete blood count (CBC) checks if you have anemia.
- A computed tomography (CT) scan checks for cancer in the abdomen, lungs and liver.
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) testing is done every 3 to 6 months. If the CEA levels get higher over time, it could mean the cancer has come back.
If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss your treatment and care.
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The following are questions that you can ask the healthcare team about follow-up after treatment for cancer. Choose the questions that fit your situation and add questions of your own. You may find it helpful to take the list to the next appointment and to write down the answers.
- What is the schedule for follow-up visits?
- How often is follow-up scheduled with the cancer specialist?
- Who is responsible for follow-up visits?
- What will happen at a follow-up visit?
- What tests are done on a regular basis? How often are they done?
- Are there any symptoms that should be reported right away? Who do I call?
- Who can help me cope with long-term side effects of treatment?
Expert review and references
Shahid Ahmed , MD, FRCPC, PhD, FACP
Small bowel cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Cancer.Net. Alexandria, VA.: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2009.
Espat NJ, Somasundar PS, and Fisichella M . Malignant neoplasms of the small intestine. eMedicine.com. Omaha: eMedicine, Inc; 2008.
Somasundar P. Medscape Reference: Malignant Neoplasms of the Small Intestine Treatment and Management. 2019: https://www.medscape.com/.
PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Small Intestine Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Patient Version . Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2021: https://www.cancer.gov/.
PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Small Intestine Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2022: https://www.cancer.gov/.