Background: Patients diagnosed with superficial bladder cancer who have not undergone total cystectomy are at high risk for recurrence, and bladder surveillance with cystoscopy is recommended for such patients every 3-6 months. We examined the degree to which bladder cancer patients undergo the recommended surveillance procedures and identified patient and primary care provider characteristics associated with nonadherence to these recommendations.
Methods: We used information obtained from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program-Medicare-linked database to identify 6717 patients aged 65 years or older who were diagnosed with superficial bladder cancer from 1992 through 1996 and who survived for at least 3 years after diagnosis but did not have a total cystectomy. We used information obtained from Medicare claims forms to examine the frequency with which these patients had a surveillance examination of the bladder during each of five contiguous 6-month intervals from month 7 to month 36 following diagnosis. We examined characteristics of patients and their physicians that were associated with low-intensity surveillance (defined as having an examination during fewer than two of the five possible follow-up intervals). Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: Only 40% of the entire cohort had an examination during all five intervals; 1216 patients (18.1%) had low-intensity surveillance. Patient characteristics that were independently associated with low-intensity surveillance were being age 75 years or older (adjusted OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.35 to 1.74), nonwhite (adjusted OR = 1.94, 95% CI = 1.57 to 2.40), and having favorable tumor histology (adjusted OR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.48 to 0.72 for poorly differentiated versus referent well-differentiated tumor grade) and high comorbidity (adjusted OR = 1.72, 95% CI = 1.30 to 2.27). Residence in an urban area or in a census tract with low median income was also associated with low-intensity surveillance.
Conclusions: The actual practice of surveillance for patients with superficial bladder cancer differs substantially from the standards recommended in clinical guidelines.