Routine Computer Tomography Imaging for the Detection of Recurrences in High-Risk Melanoma Patients

Ann Surg Oncol. 2017 Apr;24(4):947-951. doi: 10.1245/s10434-017-5768-8. Epub 2017 Jan 31.


Background: The use of routine CT imaging for surveillance in asymptomatic patients with cutaneous melanoma is controversial. We report our experience using a surveillance strategy that included CT imaging for a cohort of patients with high-risk melanoma.

Methods: A total of 466 patients with high-risk cutaneous melanoma enrolled in adjuvant immunotherapy trials were followed for tumor progression by physical examination, labs, and CT imaging as defined by protocol. Evaluations were obtained at least every 6 months for year 1, every 6 months for year 2, and then annually for the remainder of the 5-year study. Time to tumor progression, sites of recurrence, and the method of relapse detection were identified.

Results: The patient cohort consisted of 115 stage II patients, 328 stage III patients, and 23 patients with resected stage IV melanoma. The medium time to progression for the 225 patients who developed tumor progression was 7 months. Tumor progression was detected by patients, physician examination or routine labs, or by CT imaging alone in 27, 14, and 59% of cases respectively. Melanoma recurrences were noted to be locoregional in 36% of cases and systemic in 64% of cases. Thirty percent of patients with locoregional relapse and 75% of patients with systemic relapse were detected solely by CT imaging.

Conclusions: CT imaging alone detected the majority of sites of disease progression in our patients with high-risk cutaneous melanoma. This disease was not heralded by symptoms, physical examination, or blood work. Although the benefit of the early detection of advanced melanoma is unknown, this experience is relevant because of the rapid development and availability of potentially curative immunotherapies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Physical Examination
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Self-Examination*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Young Adult