Background: Medical oncologists provide long term care for patients who have been treated for cancer and are in remission. However, little is known about how physicians use routine laboratory and imaging tests for detecting cancer recurrence in their patients.
Methods: To assess type and level of their surveillance testing of patients with cancer who are in remission, a cross-sectional survey of medical oncologists was performed. Seventy-three members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology residing in Washington and Oregon participated (70% response rate). Standardized questionnaires were mailed to medical oncologists using a multiple-mailing technique. Three scenarios, each describing a patient with cancer of the breast, colon, or prostate, were included. Participants were asked to indicate the frequency at which they would order seven different diagnostic tests in the routine follow-up of such patients.
Results: Virtually all respondents would practice some level of follow-up testing of their patients. Although testing practices did not vary significantly according to physician age, year of graduation, practice type, or state of residence, there was considerable variability from physician to physician.
Conclusions: These results suggest that optimal cancer-surveillance testing programs for patients with cancer of the breast, colon, or prostate have not yet been satisfactorily defined.