Follow-up after curative resection of colorectal cancer

Ann Surg Oncol. 2014 Mar;21(3):738-46. doi: 10.1245/s10434-013-3255-4. Epub 2013 Nov 22.


Of the 13.7 million cancer survivors living in the United States as of January 2012, 1.2 million, or 9 %, were colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors. Determining an optimal surveillance for CRC survivors is necessary because of the significant burden follow-up poses to patients, physicians, and the health care system. Currently, there is no consensus regarding optimal follow-up in CRC patients. Current literature and published guidelines related to CRC follow-up were reviewed to examine the evidence for the surveillance strategies and specific tools demonstrated to improve outcome after curative CRC resection. An intensive surveillance strategy results in increased identification of recurrences amenable to curative resection but does not result in reduced overall or CRC-specific mortality. Patients most likely to benefit from surveillance include younger patients, those with earlier tumors, locoregional recurrences, longer time to recurrence, lower carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels before reoperation, and those with isolated recurrence. Complete resection of recurrence is the only factor consistently associated with improved survival. CEA, colonoscopy, and liver-focused imaging surveillance appear to have the greatest impact on mortality after curative CRC resection. A CRC surveillance strategy is recommended that includes tumor risk stratification, that provides a focus on identifying recurrences amenable to complete resection, and that utilizes those modalities demonstrated to be most effective at improving outcome after CRC resection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / trends
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • Survivors