Objective: To determine the probability and risk factors of recurrence and progression (to T2 or worse) after a long tumor-free period in patients with superficial (stage Ta and T1) bladder cancer.
Patients and methods: A consecutive series of 100 patients with superficial bladder cancer who remained tumor-free for longer than 4 years after initial treatment were reviewed. The rates of recurrence and progression were statistically assessed and the significance of risk factors was determined.
Results: Of the 100 patients, 24 (24. 0%) recurred within 15 years after the initial treatment. The 10- and 15-year recurrence-free rates were 76.0 and 59.6%, respectively. Among the clinicopathological variables examined, intravesical chemotherapy was determined by a log-rank test to be a significant unfavorable risk factor for late recurrence (p < 0.001). Progression of the tumor occurred in 5 patients. Four variables including presence of multiple tumors, involvement of the bladder neck, positive urine cytology, and intravesical chemotherapy were found by a univariate analysis to be significant risk factors for late progression (p < 0.05). Among these factors, initial presence of multiple tumors (3 or more) was determined by a multivariate analysis to be an independent risk factor for late progression.
Conclusion: Recurrence and progression continue to occur in patients with superficial bladder cancer even after long periods of dormancy. Regular follow-up urological assessments should be continued until at least 15 years of tumor-free existence, especially in patients treated by intravesical chemotherapy or those initially having multiple tumors.