Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. With population aging and increases in survival, the number of CRC survivors is projected to rise dramatically. The time following initial treatment is often described as a period of transition from intensive hospital-based care back into "regular life." This review provides an overview of recommended follow-up care for people with CRC who have been treated with curative intent, as well as exploring the current state of the research that underpins these guidelines. For patients, key concerns following treatment include the development of recurrent and new cancers, late and long-term effects of cancer and treatment, and the interplay of these factors with daily function and general health. For physicians, survivorship care plans can be a tool for coordinating the surveillance, intervention, and prevention of these key patient concerns. Though much of the research in cancer survivorship to date has focused on surveillance for recurrent disease, many national guidelines differ in their conclusions about the frequency and timing of follow-up tests. Most CRC guidelines refer only briefly to the management of side effects, despite reports that many patients have a range of ongoing physiological, psychosocial, and functional needs. Guidance for surveillance and intervention is often limited by a small number of heterogeneous trials conducted in this patient group. However, recently released survivorship guidelines emphasize the potential for the effectiveness of secondary prevention strategies, such as physical activity, to improve patient outcomes. There is also emerging evidence for the role of primary care providers and nurse coordinated care to support the transition and increase the cost-effectiveness of follow-up. The shift in focus from recurrence alone to the assessment and management of a range of survivorship issues will be important for ensuring that this growing group of patients achieves optimal outcomes.
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