Objective: To determine the optimum follow-up of women who are clinically disease-free following potentially curative treatment for endometrial cancer.
Methods: A systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library databases (1980 to October 2005) was conducted. Data were pooled across trials to determine overall estimates of recurrence patterns.
Results: Sixteen non-comparative retrospective studies were identified. The overall risk of recurrence was 13% for all patients and 3% or less for patients at low risk. Approximately 70% of all recurrences were symptomatic, and 68% to 100% of recurrences occurred within approximately the first 3 years of follow-up. No reliable differences in survival were detected between patients with symptomatic or asymptomatic recurrences nor were differences in patient outcomes reported by type of follow-up strategy employed. Detection of asymptomatic recurrences ranged from 5% to 33% of patients with physical examination, 0% to 4% with vaginal vault cytology, 0% to 14% with chest X-ray, 4% to 13% with abdominal ultrasound, 5% to 21% with abdominal/pelvic CT scan, and 15% in selected patients with CA 125.
Conclusions: There is limited evidence to inform whether intensive follow-up schedules with multiple routine diagnostic interventions result in survival benefits any more or less than non-intensive follow-up schedules without multiple routine diagnostic interventions. Routine testing seems to be of limited benefit for patients at low risk of disease. Most recurrences tend to occur in high risk patients within 3 years, and most recurrences involve symptoms. The most appropriate follow-up strategy is likely one based upon the risk of recurrence and the natural history of the disease. Counseling on the potential symptoms of recurrence is extremely important because the majority of patients with recurrences were symptomatic. A proposed routine follow-up schedule is offered.