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Med Care. 2005 Jun;43(6):592-9.

Routine surveillance care after cancer treatment with curative intent.

Author information

  • 1Center for Health Services Research, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA. jlafata1@hfhs.org



Many consensus guidelines recommend routine surveillance to detect recurrent disease among cancer survivors. We compare surveillance care receipt to guideline recommendations.


Cohorts of patients aged 30 years or older diagnosed with breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, or prostate cancer between 1990 and 1995 and treated with curative intent were identified (n = 100 per site). Receipt and indications for examinations and procedures were abstracted from medical records for as long as 5 years after treatment. Kaplan-Meier product estimates were used to estimate time to initial and subsequent service receipt.


Most cancer patients received the recommended minimum number of physical examinations after treatment. In fact, a sizable number of cancer survivors received physical examinations at a frequency in excess of what is currently recommended. Similarly, most of these cancer survivors received recommended testing for local recurrence. Yet, less than two thirds of colorectal cancer patients received recommended colon examinations in the initial year after treatment. Among colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer patients who received recommended initial local recurrence testing, repeat testing tended to occur more frequently than what is currently recommended. The use of testing for metastatic disease that is not recommended in guidelines is also commonplace among these cancer survivors.


Among cohorts of cancer patients, we found wide variation in the use of surveillance care, including patterns of care receipt reflective of both underuse and overuse relative to guideline recommendations. Clinical reasons for these variations and the cost and health implications deserve further study.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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