Purpose: The authors evaluate the effectiveness of routine colonoscopy and marker evaluation in diagnosis of intraluminal recurrent cancer.
Methods: Chart review was conducted on 481 patients who underwent curative resection for colorectal cancer between 1980 and 1990. Clinical visits were scheduled and carcinoembryonic antigen evaluation was performed every three months, and colonoscopy was performed preoperatively, 12 to 15 months after surgical treatment, and then with intervals of 12 to 24 months or when symptoms appeared.
Results: About 10 percent of patients developed intraluminal recurrences. More than one-half of metachronous lesions arose within the first 24 months, and median time to diagnosis was 25 months. Patients with left-sited tumors in the advanced stage had a higher risk of developing recurrent intraluminal disease. Twenty-nine patients underwent a second surgical operation, of which 17 cases were radical. In this group, the five-year survival was 70.6 percent, although no nonradically treated or nonresected patients survived longer than 31 months. Twenty-two patients were asymptomatic at time of diagnosis of recurrence, and of these, 12 patients underwent radical operation; on the other hand, of the 24 symptomatic patients, only 5 were treated radically. Carcinoembryonic antigen was the first sign of recurrence in eight cases. Colonoscopy must be performed within the first 12 to 15 months after operation, whereas an interval of 24 months between examinations seems sufficient to guarantee early detection of metachronous lesions.
Conclusion: Serial tumor marker evaluation is of help in earlier diagnosis of local recurrences. Asymptomatic patients more frequently undergo another operation for cure and thus have a better survival rate.