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Surg Oncol. 1998 Nov-Dec;7(3-4):125-37.

Colorectal cancer screening and follow-up.

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Department of Surgery, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, USA.


Cancer of the colon and rectum is a significant health problem in the United States. Nearly 50% of the 186,000 patients diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer will eventually die of their disease. Because development of a colorectal carcinoma is most frequently preceded by the development of a well-recognized pre-malignant lesion, screening modalities can significantly impact the incidence and mortality rate of this disease. Population screening employing digital rectal examination, fecal occult blood testing and endoscopic examination of the rectum and colon has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of death from colorectal cancer. Screening regimens should be instituted at an earlier age and with increased frequency for patients in the highest risk categories. Patients who have been treated for a cancer of the colon or rectum should undergo surveillance at regular intervals in an attempt to identify recurrences of disease both in the residual colon and rectum and at distant sites. Most physicians and patients believe that intensive follow-up strategies will afford improved survival and quality of life, however few randomized studies examining the utility of intensive follow-up programs have been performed and the quality of cancer-related follow-up literature is generally poor. Good-quality clinical trials are needed to sort out which tests make a difference in the patient's long-term outcome. The algorithm for surveillance for recurrence in the future may be altered as newer testing modalities are developed.

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