Background: This meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of intensive follow-up after curative intent treatment for five common solid tumours, in terms of survival and treatment of recurrences.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted, identifying comparative studies on follow-up for colorectal, lung, breast, upper gastro-intestinal and prostate cancer. Outcomes of interest were overall survival (OS), cancer specific survival (CSS), and treatment of recurrences. Random effects meta-analyses were conducted, with particular focus on studies at low risk of bias.
Results: Fourteen out of 63 studies were considered to be at low risk of bias (8 colorectal, 4 breast, 0 lung, 1 upper gastro-intestinal, 1 prostate). These studies showed no significant impact of intensive follow-up on OS (hazard ratio, 95% confidence interval) for colorectal (0.99; 0.92–1.06), breast 1.06 (0.92–1.23), upper gastro-intestinal (0.78; 0.51–1.19) and prostate cancer (1.00; 0.86–1.16). No impact on CSS (hazard ratio, 95% confidence interval) was found for colorectal cancer (0.94; 0.77–1.16). CSS was not reported for other cancer types. Intensive follow-up increased the rate of curative treatment (relative risk; 95% confidence interval) for colorectal cancer recurrences (1.30; 1.05–1.61), but not for upper gastro-intestinal cancer recurrences (0.92; 0.47–1.81). For the other cancer types, no data on treatment of recurrences was available in low risk studies.
Conclusion: For colorectal and breast cancer, high quality studies do not suggest an impact of intensive follow-up strategies on survival. Colorectal cancer recurrences are more often treated locally after intensive follow-up. For other cancer types evaluated, limited high quality research on follow-up is available.