Intensive follow-up strategies improve outcomes in nonmetastatic colorectal cancer patients after curative surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ann Oncol. 2015 Apr;26(4):644-656. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu543. Epub 2014 Nov 19.


Background: A wide variety of follow-up strategies are used for patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) after curative surgery. The aim of this study is to review the evidence of the impact of different follow-up strategies in patients with nonmetastatic CRC after curative surgery, in relation to overall survival and other outcomes.

Patients and methods: A systematic search of PubMed, EMBASE, SCOPUS and ISI Web of Knowledge up to June 2014 was carried out. Eligible studies were all randomized clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of different follow-up strategies after curative resection in nonmetastatic CRC.

Results: Eleven studies with n = 4055 participants were included in a meta-analysis. A significant improvement in overall survival was observed in patients with more intensive follow-up strategies [hazard ratio = 0.75; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.66-0.86]. A higher probability of detection of asymptomatic recurrences [relative risk (RR) = 2.59; 95% CI 1.66-4.06], curative surgery attempted at recurrences (RR = 1.98; 95% CI 1.51-2.60), survival after recurrences (RR = 2.13; 95% CI 1.24-3.69), and a shorter time in detecting recurrences (mean difference = -5.23 months; 95% CI -9.58 to -0.88) was observed in the intervention group. There were no significant differences in the total tumor recurrences, nor in the mortality related to disease.

Conclusion: Intensive follow-up strategies improve overall survival, increase the detection of asymptomatic recurrences and curative surgery attempted at recurrence, and are associated with a shorter time in detecting recurrences. This more intensive follow-up could not be associated with an improvement in cancer-specific survival nor with an increased detection of total tumor recurrences. Follow-up with serum carcinoembryonic antigen and colonoscopies are related to an increase in overall survival.

Keywords: colorectal neoplasms; curative surgery; meta-analysis; surveillance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate