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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Jan;145(1):75-81; discussion 81-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.09.030. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

Patterns of recurrence and second primary lung cancer in early-stage lung cancer survivors followed with routine computed tomography surveillance.

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Thoracic Service, Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.



At present, there is no consensus on the optimal strategy for follow-up care after curative resection for lung cancer. We sought to understand the patterns of recurrence and second primary lung cancer, and their mode of detection, after resection for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer in patients who were followed by routine surveillance computed tomography scan.


We reviewed the outcomes of consecutive patients who underwent resection for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center between 2004 and 2009.


A total of 1294 consecutive patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer underwent resection. The median length of follow-up was 35 months. Recurrence was diagnosed in 257 patients (20%), and second primary lung cancer was diagnosed in 91 patients (7%). The majority of new primary cancers (85 [93%]) were identified by scheduled routine computed tomography scan, as were a smaller majority of recurrences (157 [61%]). During the first 4 years after surgery, the risk of recurrence ranged from 6% to 10% per person-year but decreased thereafter to 2%. Conversely, the risk of second primary lung cancer ranged from 3% to 6% per person-year and did not diminish over time. Additional testing after false-positive surveillance computed tomography scan results was performed for 329 patients (25%), but only 4 of these patients (0.3%) experienced complications as a result of subsequent invasive diagnostic procedures.


Almost all second primary cancers and the majority of recurrences were detected by post-therapeutic surveillance computed tomography scan. The risk of recurrence for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer survivors persisted during the first 4 years after resection, and vigilance in surveillance should be maintained.

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