Aim: National guidelines recommend enrollment of patients in surveillance programmes following curative resection of colorectal carcinoma (CRC) in order to detect recurrence or distant metastasis at an asymptomatic/early stage when secondary curative treatment can be offered. Little is known about surgeons' adherence to such guidelines. In this national survey we analyse adherence and attitudes to postoperative follow up among Norwegian gastrointestinal surgeons involved in the care of patients with CRC.
Method: We performed a nationwide survey of all hospitals performing surgery for colon and/or rectum cancer. The presence of a surveillance programme, the type of programme, adherence to national guidelines or report on any deviation thereof, location of follow up at the hospital or with a general practitioner (GPs) and the estimated annual volume of surgery were queried through mail and telephone.
Results: All hospitals (n=41) performing colorectal surgery responded, of which 25 (61%) conducted postoperative follow up by surgeons in the hospital outpatient clinics, four (10%) carried out follow up with a combination of hospital outpatient visits and visits to GPs, and 12 (29%) referred surveillance to the GP alone. For total reported patient numbers, almost two-thirds (60%) received surveillance according to national recommendations through outpatient visits with the surgeon or GP, while one-third (37%) were subject to other alternative routines. A small number (2%) received informal 'ad hoc' surveillance only. More liberal use of imaging outside guideline recommendations was reported for rectal cancer patients, while colon cancer patients treated in larger hospitals were more likely to be referred for GP surveillance.
Conclusion: All hospitals reported having a strategy for surveillance after surgery for colon and rectal cancer, but there was considerable variance in strategy. A scientific audit of the true level of compliance, effectiveness and cost-benefit is warranted at a national level.
© 2011 The Authors. Colorectal Disease © 2011 The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland.