Current follow-up strategies after resection of colon cancer. Results of a survey of members of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

Dis Colon Rectum. 1994 Jun;37(6):573-83. doi: 10.1007/BF02050993.


The follow-up of patients after potentially curative resection of colon cancer has important clinical and financial implications for patients and society, yet the ideal surveillance strategy is unknown.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the current follow-up practice pattern of a large, diverse group of experts.

Methods: The 1,663 members of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons were asked, via a detailed questionnaire, how often they request nine discrete follow-up evaluations in their patients treated for cure with TNM Stage I, II, or III colon cancer over the first five posttreatment years. These evaluations were clinic visit, complete blood count, liver function tests, serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level, chest x-ray, bone scan, computerized tomographic scan, colonoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy.

Results: Forty-six percent (757/1663) completed the survey and 39 percent (646/1663) provided evaluable data. The results indicate that members of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons generally conduct follow-up on their patients personally after performing colon cancer surgery (rather than sending them back to their referral source). Routine clinic visits and CEA levels are the most frequently performed items for each of the five years. The large majority (> 75 percent) of surgeons see their patients every 3 to 6 months for years 1 and 2, then every 6 to 12 months for years 3, 4, and 5. Approximately 80 percent of respondents obtain CEA levels every 3 to 6 months for years 1, 2, and 3, and every 6 to 12 months for years 4 and 5. Colonoscopy is performed annually by 46 to 70 percent of respondents, depending on year. A chest x-ray is obtained yearly by 46 to 56 percent, depending on year. The majority of the members of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons do not routinely request computerized tomographic scan or bone scan at any time. There is great variation in the pattern of use of complete blood count and liver function tests. Members of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons from the United States tend to follow their patients more closely than do those living in other countries. The intensity of follow-up does not markedly vary across TNM Stages I to III.

Conclusion: The surveillance strategies reported here rely most heavily on clinic visits and CEA level determinations, generally reflecting guidelines previously proposed in the current literature.

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Colonoscopy
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen