Background & aims: Guidelines on the type and frequency of follow-up of patients after curative surgery for colorectal cancer are unclear. The aim of this study was to determine the survival benefit of a planned follow-up program.
Methods: Three hundred twenty-five patients who underwent curative resection of colorectal cancer were prospectively randomized to either intensive or standard follow-up. After stratification according to Dukes' stage and site in the colon or rectum, patients were randomized to intensive follow-up of yearly colonoscopy, computerized tomography (CT) of the liver, and chest radiography and clinical review and simple screening vs. structured clinical review and simple screening tests only.
Results: On completion of 5-year follow-up, there was no significant difference in survival between the two groups. Yearly colonoscopy failed to detect any asymptomatic local recurrences. Only one asymptomatic curable metachronous colon tumor was detected. Liver CT resulted in earlier detection of hepatic metastases but did not increase the number of curative hepatectomies. Only 1 patient had an asymptomatic CT-detected liver metastasis, and another had an asymptomatic chest radiography-detected lung metastasis. Both had curative resections.
Conclusions: Yearly colonoscopy, liver CT, and chest radiography will not improve survival from colorectal cancer when added to symptom and simple screening review.