Objective: To identify women treated for endometrial carcinoma with increased risk for recurrent disease, to examine how and when recurrences are discovered, and to assess the clinical benefit of routine follow up investigations.
Design: Retrospective case analysis.
Setting: Hordaland county, Norway.
Population: All women treated for endometrial carcinoma in a demographically well defined area, in a 10-year period (1981-1990).
Methods: Data concerning patient characteristics and course of the disease were collected through review of the medical records, correspondence with the primary physician and from the Norwegian Cancer Registry. Univariate and multivariate survival analysis.
Results: After curative surgical treatment 249 women diagnosed with endometrial carcinoma were followed for a median period of 9 years (range 4-16) or until death. Among these 249 radically treated patients, 47 had recurrent disease, 32 within the first two years. Ten of the recurrences were diagnosed at routine follow up, but only four were asymptomatic. In our follow up programme, one asymptomatic recurrence was detected for every 653 routine consultations. A low risk group, with FIGO Stage IA/IB or patient age below 60 years at primary operation was identified in multivariate recurrence-free survival analysis. No asymptomatic recurrences were found in this group.
Conclusions: Low risk women should be considered for an alternative, less frequent follow up. The sensitivity for current practice of routine follow up in detecting asymptomatic recurrences is so low that other beneficial effects should be documented to defend the large resources spent on this programme.