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Clinical Investigations: LUNG CANCER |

Follow-up in Lung Cancer*: How Often and for What Purpose?

Riad N. Younes, MD, PhD; Jefferson L. Gross, MD; Daniel Deheinzelin, MD, PhD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Hospital do Câncer A.C. Camargo, Fundação Antonio Prudente, and LIM-62 University of São Paulo, UNIP, São Paulo, Brazil.



Chest. 1999;115(6):1494-1499. doi:10.1378/chest.115.6.1494
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Objectives: The present study evaluates the cost-effectiveness of two follow-up routines: a strict follow-up with frequent visits, imaging, and laboratory examinations was compared to a follow-up with infrequent visits that were scheduled mainly on the basis of the patient’s symptoms.

Methods: A retrospective evaluation was undertaken of 130 patients who underwent a complete resection of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). All patients had complete follow-up for at least 2 years after their operation. The patients were separated into two groups: strict (n = 67), with a routine follow-up policy; and symptom (n = 63), seen on a symptom-oriented basis. The costs of the follow-up routines and the yield of each schedule were compared between the two groups.

Results: There were no significant differences in the disease-free interval until the first detection of recurrence. In most patients, metastatic diseases were diagnosed on the basis of symptoms, rather than by routine tests. The patients who had recurrent cancer diagnosed after surgery had a dismal survival rate irrespective of the follow-up schedule. The majority of patients with recurrence died of malignancy within a 2-year period. The costs of strict vs symptom follow-up were significantly different, because of the greater number of routine imaging procedures performed in patients having strict follow-up. On the other hand, when we analyzed only the frequency of hospitalization and the cost per day of hospital treatment for medical problems other than cancer recurrence, the patients in the strict group had a less expensive follow-up than the patients in the symptom group.

Conclusions: The present study showed that a more cost-effective routine follow-up scheme should be advised for patients with completely resected NSCLC, without affecting overall outcome. Routine imaging follow-up is of questionable value, and it may be indicated only in academic settings.

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lung cancer

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