Follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer. A meta-analysis

Ann Surg. 1994 Feb;219(2):174-82. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199402000-00009.


Objective: The authors sought to determine whether intensive follow-up improves 5-year survival rates in patients with colorectal cancer who were operated on for cure.

Summary background data: Intensive follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer is still controversial. The present uncertainty in regard to the value of intensive follow-up could be the result of the absence of prospective randomized studies comparing patients with and without follow-up.

Methods: Studies comparing two follow-up programs of different intensities were identified in the medical literature and were aggregated in a meta-analysis using the "random effects method." Seven nonrandomized studies describing 3283 patients were analyzed.

Results: Patients with intensive follow-up did have 9% better 5-year survival rates than did those with minimal or no follow-up, only when intensive follow-up included carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) assays. In addition, more asymptomatic recurrences were detected and more recurrences were resected in patients with intensive follow-up.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis indicated that intensive follow-up using CEA assays can identify treatable recurrences at a relatively early stage. Treatment of these recurrences appears to be associated with improved 5-year survival rates. However, not all intensive follow-up strategies will be equally effective. Follow-up may yield the best results if diagnostic tests are used only to detect those recurrences that can be operated on with curative intent and when follow-up is "individualized," according to patient characteristics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actuarial Analysis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate