Study Helps to Show How Long People Should be Checked After Cancer Treatment

Study helps to show how long people should be checked after cancer treatment

Often, people wonder how long they should be monitored or checked after their cancer treatment ends. Many people have regular checks for 5 years. But in some types of cancer it hasn’t been clear how long people should be followed up for and whether or when they need to have physical examinations or tests and scans.

A study presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago earlier this month suggests that five years of monitoring is not enough for some cancers and is too long for others.  Researchers in America used a database to check how long people in the USA were followed up and also check this against the chance of particular types of cancer coming back. Overall, 2.3 million patients with 68 different cancer types were studied.

Based on the study, the researchers recommended ideal follow-up times for a number of cancer types. They concluded that grouping patients by cancer stage and structure could play a significant role in determining follow-up time. These included nine years for ovarian cancer, seven years for lung cancer, and seven years for colon cancer.

For some types of breast and prostate cancer follow up might only need to be a year. But for digestive system cancers it might need to be up to 19 years. These recommendations need to be studied further and Dr Richard Russell, a respiratory physician and medical advisor to the British Lung Foundation, said that “there is an urgent need to clarify this data in a UK population”.

Here in the UK, a spokesperson for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that follow-up for cancer needs to “balance a number of factors” including “individual patient choice”, adding: “Our range of guidance provides advice on how doctors can work with patients to find out what they would prefer so together they decide what is appropriate for their circumstances.”

Read more about follow up care on the Macmillan Cancer Care website. Your doctor or clinical nurse specialist can give you information about your own follow up care.

Written by Debbie Coats – Cancer Support Specialist Maggie’s Cancerkin