When Colon Cancer Comes Back
- Lindy Thackston has cancer again. She announced today that her colorectal cancer has metastasized to her left lung.
- The good news is that this diagnosis isn’t terminal. “You hear stage 4 and it’s really scary,” she says, “but my doctors say this one is curable as well.”
- The way doctors attempt to manage recurrent colon cancers will depend on the location of the recurrence and how quickly it returns. If it comes back in multiple areas, this suggests a more aggressive disease and chemotherapy will likely be recommended.
Earlier this month, Thackston, an anchor for FOX 59 News in Indianapolis, announced that her doctors found a spot on her lung during an unrelated hospital visit. The news anchor was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in May 2020.Read More
“Well, here we go again,” she wrote on Instagram today. “Unfortunately my biopsy came back with the news (that) the colorectal cancer has metastasized to my left lung.”
Thackston’s Cancer Recurrence
In addition to the news of her cancer recurrence posted on Instagram, she also posted a new episode of her podcast, Life With Lindy. The episode provides further details about her prognosis and how she found out about the cancer’s return.
“Well, this is definitely an episode I wasn’t expecting,” she says in Episode Nine: The Recurrence, “but here we go again.”
She shared the good news first: this diagnosis isn’t terminal. “You hear stage 4 and it’s really scary,” she says, “but my doctors say this one is curable as well.”
She further explains that her doctors think the spot on her lung has been there from the very beginning — when she was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in May 2020. But it was small; it never changed or did anything the entire time she battled colorectal cancer, she says.
Once she finished treatment in April, she got a PET scan in June, “just to make sure all was clear.” Her doctors saw a nodule; it was about a centimeter in size. When she visited the hospital for unrelated stomach pains a couple months later, she had another scan. Her doctor told her, “Hey, that spot on your lung has grown.” It had grown about 3 to 5 millimeters.
Breaking the News; Treatment Plan
About a week later, she had a lung biopsy, which she says was a “really intense” procedure. Her doctors told her there was a 17.1% chance that the spot would be malignant — cancerous. But the odds weren’t in her favor this time.
“I got a phone call a couple days ago and it’s a nurse with the thoracic surgeon wanting to set up an appointment for my lung surgery,” Thackston recalls, “and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And she said, ‘Well, to have part of your lung removed,’ and I said, ‘Do I have cancer again? Because nobody’s called me.’ And so that’s how I found out.” The nurse and Thackston both started crying after that.
Thackston says the plan is to have surgery in October to remove the nodule. “(My doctors) are thinking it’s gonna be a wedge resection (surgery to remove a triangle-shaped slice of tissue) but he could get in during the surgery and figure out that he needs to take half of my left lung,” she says, “so a lot of that will be at the last second.”
Once the tumor is removed, it will be tested to see if there’s any type of mutation doctors can target with chemo. There are a lot of different factors that will go into if Thackston does chemo again, “but I most likely will,” she says. “I’ll probably end up doing chemo pills and an IV (intravenous) chemo.”
“They believe I can work through this and maintain my life,” she says. “So it’s been a lot to take in; mentally, so far I feel like I’m doing OK, but I’m also probably still in a bit of shock.”
When Colon Cancer Comes Back
What can you do when colon cancer comes back? With stages 1 and 2 colon cancer, it’s rare that the cancer will recur after it’s removed with surgery. Recurrences are more common with later stages, like in Thackston’s case; that’s the reason doctors will often recommend chemotherapy after surgery for stage 3 colon cancer (and high risk stage 2).
If colon cancer is going to recur, it will most commonly happen within the first two years, Dr. Heather Yeo, colorectal surgeon and surgical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SurvivorNet. The way doctors attempt to manage these cancers will depend on the location of the recurrence and how quickly it returns. If it comes back in multiple areas, this suggests a more aggressive disease and chemotherapy will likely be recommended.
“The reason that we give adjuvant chemotherapy, or chemotherapy after surgery in stage 3 is that even though we’ve cut out all the tumor that we can see, there are probably some cells that we can’t see somewhere in the body,” Yeo says, “and so that’s what the chemotherapy is for.”
“Some of the time the chemotherapy prevents the cancer from coming back or spreading. But sometimes it does, and those patients get recurrent cancer,” she adds.
That recurrent cancer can happen anywhere; in Thackston’s case, it came back in her lung. And the management of recurrent cancer depends on where it comes back, according to Yeo.