Routine follow-up examinations in breast cancer patients have minimal impact on life expectancy: a simulation study.
SourceAnnals of Oncology, 12, 8, (2001), pp. 1107-1113
Article / Letter to editor
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Annals of Oncology
SubjectEpidemiology; Experimental diagnostics and therapy of malignancies; Urological oncology; Epidemiologie; Urologische oncologie
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the effects of routine follow-up examinations on life expectancy in cancer patients. Lately, the benefits of follow-up examinations have been debated, which has given rise to less extensive, though still frequent, follow-up strategies. In this study, a simulation model was applied to evaluate the impact of different follow-up strategies on life expectancy in breast cancer patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A five-state Markov chain model was developed, with which various follow-up strategies with regard to frequency and elaborateness were simulated. Calculations were based on a hypothetical population of breast cancer patients treated with curative intent. Medical aspects were studied, such as life expectancy and the proportion of patients who died from breast cancer. Social and psychological aspects and quality of life were not taken into account. Data from the literature were used to estimate the parameters needed for the model. RESULTS: The gain in life expectancy with standard follow-up compared to no follow-up examination, was about 2 months in breast cancer patients aged 50 years treated with curative intent. The percentage of patients who died from breast cancer was 45.4% with standard follow-up, versus 45.8% without follow-up. In older women, the gain was even less. Sensitivity analyses showed that the effects on life expectancy were robust. CONCLUSIONS: Our model showed that standard follow-up had minimal impact on the prognosis of breast cancer patients. It may be unnecessary to continue standard follow-up by medical specialists after the end of the surveillance period of the primary therapy, provided that the patients continue to have easy access to health care facilities in the case of symptoms or concern. However, future research is needed to study quality of life aspects of follow-up.
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