Objective: To define guidelines for the follow-up management of nonmetastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC), by assessing tumour recurrences and the clinical course in patients who had undergone radical nephrectomy.
Patients and methods: The records of 187 patients with pT1-3, N0-X, M0 RCC who underwent radical nephrectomy between 1982 and 1997 were reviewed prospectively. Clinicopathological variables were compared with the time of first recurrence, site of metastasis and reason for diagnosis.
Results: Metastases were diagnosed in 98 sites in 56 of the 187 patients (30%). The risk for developing metastases increased with stage; 80% of the patients had their metastases diagnosed within 3 years (median 14.5 months) after nephrectomy. The time to first diagnosis was longer for patients with pT1 tumours and for those with skeletal metastases. The cause-specific 5-year survival rate for pT1 tumours was 95%, for pT2 87% and for pT3 tumours 37%. All patients with diploid pT1-2 RCC survived, having a survival advantage over those with aneuploid pT1-2 tumours (P=0.018). Also, pT1-2 tumours of < 5 cm were associated with better survival rates. Among 74 patients with pT3 tumours, 45 got metastases; DNA ploidy in these tumours did not influence survival. Of 30 patients with lung metastases, 28 were diagnosed during follow-up, while 25 of 26 other metastatic sites were diagnosed because of symptoms.
Conclusions: The risk for tumour progression depends mainly on stage; these results indicate no need for follow-up in patients with diploid pT1-2 tumours or with aneuploid pT1 tumours of < 5 cm. For patients with aneuploid pT1-2 tumours of > 5 cm and pT3 tumours, follow-up is indicated.