Medline: 8129488

Annals of Surgery 219(2): 174-182, 1994.

Follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis.

Bruinvels DJ, Stiggelbout AM, Kievit J, et al.


The authors sought to determine whether intensive follow-up improves 5-year survival rates in patients with colorectal cancer who were operated on for cure. SUMMARY

DATA: Intensive follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer is still controversial. The present uncertainty in regard to the value of intensive follow-up could be the result of the absence of prospective randomized studies comparing patients with and without follow-up.

Studies comparing two follow-up programs of different intensities were identified in the medical literature and were aggregated in a meta-analysis using the "random effects method." Seven nonrandomized studies describing 3283 patients were analyzed.

Patients with intensive follow-up did have 9% better 5-year survival rates than did those with minimal or no follow-up, only when intensive follow-up included carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) assays. In addition, more asymptomatic recurrences were detected and more recurrences were resected in patients with intensive follow-up.

This meta-analysis indicated that intensive follow-up using CEA assays can identify treatable recurrences at a relatively early stage. Treatment of these recurrences appears to be associated with improved 5-year survival rates. However, not all intensive follow-up strategies will be equally effective. Follow-up may yield the best results if diagnostic tests are used only to detect those recurrences that can be operated on with curative intent and when follow-up is "individualized," according to patient characteristics.

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