Most patients treated with curative intent for colorectal cancer (CRC) are included in a follow-up program involving periodic evaluations. The survival benefits of a follow-up program are well delineated, and previous meta-analyses have suggested an overall survival improvement of 5%-10% by intensive follow-up. However, in a recent randomized trial, there was no survival benefit when a minimal vs an intensive follow-up program was compared. Less is known about the potential side effects of follow-up. Well-known side effects of preventive programs are those of somatic complications caused by testing, negative psychological consequences of follow-up itself, and the downstream impact of false positive or false negative tests. Accordingly, the potential survival benefits of CRC follow-up must be weighed against these potential negatives. The present review compares the benefits and side effects of CRC follow-up, and we propose future areas for research.
Keywords: Cancer survivorship; Colorectal cancer; False positive; Follow-up; Surveillance.