[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The homogeneity of the schemes for follow-up care after curative surgical treatment of early breast cancer is still a matter of debate in Germany. We investigated whether symptom-oriented follow-up is equivalent in terms of survival rates to conventional surveillance based on scheduled tests.
In a prospective, non-randomised, multicentre cohort study carried out between 1995 and 2000, 244 patients underwent a conventional follow-up (scheduled laboratory tests including CEA and CA 15-3, chest X-rays and liver ultrasound). 426 patients were monitored in a symptom-oriented manner (additional tests only in the case of symptoms indicating possible recurrence). Mammography, structured histories and physical examinations were done regularly in both branches. 1,108 patients did not participate in the project. They represent 'real world patients', unaffected by the implications of a study.
The symptom-oriented follow- up group produced results not inferior to those of the intensive one (p < 0.05) in terms of overall and relapse-free survival. Furthermore, no difference was indicated in terms of overall survival between study participants and the 'real world patients' (p = 0.316).
The results confirm that regular imaging and laboratory tests have no relevant effect on overall survival of patients after curative primary therapy of early breast cancer and support the implementation of a symptom-oriented routine follow-up.