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Ann Thorac Surg. 2000 Jun;69(6):1696-700.

Who should follow up lung cancer patients after operation?

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Department of Surgery, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



It is unclear whether follow-up by a thoracic surgeon after lung cancer resection alters survival.


The charts of 245 early stage (< or = IIB) non-small cell lung cancer patients, diagnosed between 1988 and 1995, were reviewed. Follow-up data were complete to January 1, 1997, in 96.3% (236 of 245) of cases.


Ninety of the 111 recurrences were detected before discharge from the thoracic clinic. Despite clinic follow-up, 66.7% (60 of 90) were identified by the family physician, and only 28.9% (26 of 90) by the surgeon. The remaining 4.4% (4 of 90) were detected by other physicians. Ninety-six percent (25 of 26) surgeon-detected recurrences had suspicious clinical or chest radiographic findings, compared with 92% for family physician-detected recurrences (55 of 60; not significant). The cost per recurrence detected by surgeons was Can $4,367. A 75% cost savings could ensure if patients were followed up by their family physician. There was no 5-year survival benefit for patients whose recurrence was detected by the surgeon.


Long-term follow-up after limited-stage non-small cell lung cancer resection could possibly be performed by a family physician alone without compromising overall survival, and with significant cost savings.

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