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Urol Oncol. 2008 Sep-Oct;26(5):550-4. doi: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2007.05.026. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Surveillance for renal cell carcinoma: why and how? When and how often?

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Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Patient's history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and radiographic evaluation are the cornerstones of postoperative surveillance. It has been shown that localized renal cell carcinoma (RCC) can recur in nearly all organs of the body, but most commonly in the lung, bone, liver, brain, and renal fossa. Lung metastases can be sensitively detected through radiographic evaluation. Treatment of lung metastases might prolong survival, which supports surveillance x-ray or computed tomography scans. Surgical treatment of early detected liver metastases and local recurrences may also prolong survival, which supports a close abdominal surveillance program. Brain and bone metastases are usually symptomatic when they occur, and their treatment is generally palliative. Hence, surveillance protocols do not usually include their routine radiographic evaluation. Because partial nephrectomy does not increase the risk of local recurrence over radical nephrectomy, we recommend identical surveillance for completely resected tumors regardless of surgical approach. The risk of recurrence after nephrectomy is generally related to tumor stage, tumor grade, and patient performance status. The majority of recurrences occur within the first 5 years after surgery, supporting a more intense surveillance strategy within the first 5 years. The University of California Integrated Staging System (UISS) combines TNM stage, Fuhrman grade, and performance status, and categorizes patients into 3 different risk groups. The current surveillance protocol at our institution is based on the UISS. It is expected that molecular markers such as p53 will allow more individualized surveillance strategies in the future.

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