Follow-up colonoscopy after colorectal cancer resection
Given that the objectives of surveillance are early detection of metachronous cancer and timely polypectomy for metachronous adenomas, recommendations about the timing of colonoscopy after resection of colorectal cancer (CRC) should be largely based upon the natural history of metachronous colonic neoplasia. Intraluminal recurrences are infrequent and a secondary consideration.
The natural history of metachronous cancer and polyps is best estimated by studies of the yields of colonoscopy at various time points after surgery, when pre or perioperative colonoscopy has excluded synchronous cancer and cleared synchronous polyps.
What should be the follow-up colonoscopy for patients after CRC resection? (FUC1)
Systematic review evidence[edit source]
A systematic review of studies published since 2010 was undertaken to update the evidence on which the 2011 version of these guidelines was based.
No new studies were found (see Technical report).
The systematic review undertaken in 2010 is still relevant and summarises the available evidence for this clinical question.
In the literature prior to 2005, Barillari and Neugut found that more than one-half of metachronous adenomas and cancers were detected within the first 24 months after surgery. In a 2000 study, Togashi et al detected 22 metachronous CRCs in 19 out of 341 patients after CRC surgery, 14 (64 %) of them within 5 years of surgery. Most were small (≤10mm) and many had a flat endoscopic appearance. In a study of 174 patients reported by Juhl et al in 1990, three-quarters of the colonoscopically detected neoplasms (adenomatous polyps and cancers) occurred within the first 24 months. In the period 12–30 months after surgery, 4metachronous cancers and 37 advanced adenomas were detected. A retrospective review by Khoury et al concluded that annual follow-up colonoscopy for 2 years after CRC surgery was beneficial and that the interval between subsequent examinations be increased depending on the result of the most recent examination.
However, not all of these earlier studies advocated colonoscopy within 1 to 2 years of surgery. Among 175 patients who underwent a curative resection for CRC between 1986 and 1992, colonoscopies performed 1 year after surgery and then at 2-year intervals revealed no metachronous cancers or advanced adenomas. The authors suggested that only patients who had had synchronous adenomas at pre-operative colonoscopy should undergo follow-up colonoscopy at 3 years. Similarly, Stigliano et al conducted a retrospective study of 322 patients and found no metachronous cancers within the first 2 years after surgery. In their 2002 review, Berman et al suggested that there were insufficient data to support the routine use of annual or more frequent colonoscopy to identify metachronous or recurrent CRC and they suggested post-operative colonoscopy be limited to every 3 to 5 years. A large retrospective audit of patients after CRC resection by McFall et al, concluded that most patients are at very low risk of developing significant colonic pathology in the 5 years after resection, but the value of this study was limited by the fact that less than one-third of the patients underwent postoperative colonoscopy and the mean interval between surgery and colonoscopy was more than 4 years. Similar reservations about the need for follow-up colonoscopy earlier than 2 to 3 years were expressed by Mathew et al, even though 10 out of 14 patients with neoplastic findings at surveillance colonoscopy were detected 2 years postoperatively.
A Western Australian study by Yusoff et al audited all patients who underwent surgical resection of CRC from 1989 to 2001 and found that no metachronous cancers (and only 1 of 11 recurrent anastomotic cancers) were found by surveillance of asymptomatic patients. The three metachronous cancers were all detected in symptomatic patients, at 4, 8 and 9 years after surgery. In a subset of their patients, the yields for adenoma were 10% at one 1 year post-operatively, 28% at 2 years and none at 3 years.
Another Australian study by Platell et al published in 2005 specifically evaluated the clinical utility of performing a colonoscopy 12 months after curative resection for CRC. In 253 patients who had undergone complete colonoscopy prior to resection, 90% received their first post-operative colonoscopy at a mean of 1.1 years. Although no recurrent or metachronous cancers were found, 149 polyps were detected in 30% of patients, 42% of which were adenomas. Additionally, of the total number of polyps, 13% were villous or tubulovillous adenomas. Having observed such a high prevalence of advanced adenomas at 12 months (7.9% of patients), the authors raised the possibility that, instead of performing post-operative colonoscopy at 3 to 5 years, as recommended in then-current 2005 clinical practice guidelines for the prevention, early detection and management of CRC, a variably intense colonoscopy surveillance schedule might be justifiable. Similarly, a large study from Taipei concluded that a lifelong schedule of postoperative colonoscopic surveillance was necessary.
According to Hassan et al, who used a decision analysis model, early surveillance colonoscopy performed 1 year following CRC resection was clinically efficient and cost-effective in terms of cancer detection and prevention of cancer-specific death. Compared with 'no early colonoscopy' following surgery, the number of 1-year colonoscopies required to find one CRC was 143 and the number needed to prevent one CRC-related death was 926. In a 2007 analysis of 1002 operated CRC patients, Rulyak et al concluded that surveillance colonoscopy within one year of surgery was warranted because (i) 9 of the 20 metachronous cancers detected during the study period were found within 18 months of surgery and (ii) the rate of metachronous advanced neoplasia was significantly lower if colonoscopy was performed within 18 months of surgery (6.9 %) than if colonoscopy was delayed for 3 years or more (15.5 %).
In a 2009 study from China, Wang et al compared 'intensive colonoscopic surveillance' (3-monthly colonoscopy for the first year after surgery, then 6-monthly for the following 2 years and annually thereafter) with 'routine colonoscopic surveillance' (at 6, 30 and 60 months after surgery). In the intensive surveillance group, one metachronous cancer was detected in the second year of surveillance, one in the fourth year and the third more than 5 years after initial surgery. In the routine surveillance group, no metachronous cancers were found at 6 months, four were found at 30 months, one was found at 5 years and one was found thereafter. The authors concluded that the routine schedule of surveillance was acceptable, with follow-up colonoscopy at one and two years after surgery and then 3 to 5 years thereafter.
Thus, while not all of the published evidence is in agreement, most studies demonstrate a significant incidence of metachronous cancers, advanced adenomas and other types of polyps after curative resection for CRC. In many studies, a high proportion of the metachronous neoplasia was detected within the first 2 years after surgery.
Careful, high-quality colonoscopy at 12 months after surgery would be expected to detect the vast majority of metachronous neoplasia. In turn, this should improve survival in patients operated on for CRC, by finding second cancers at a stage early enough to be cured by re-operation, and by removing metachronous adenomas while still benign. As a result, the weight of evidence from the literature would seem to support performing the initial postoperative surveillance colonoscopy at an interval of 1 year. If this examination does not reveal a metachronous cancer, the intervals between subsequent colonoscopies should probably be 3 and then 5 years, depending on the number, size and histologic type of polyps (if any) removed (see Colonoscopic surveillance after polypectomy).
Overview of additional evidence (non-systematic review relevant literature)[edit source]
The US guidelines for colonoscopy surveillance after cancer resection referenced in the last clinical practice guidelines have since been updated to include additional data from 2005 to 2015. The literature was summarised with regard to metachronous cancer development. Reporting pooled data from over 15,000 patients, 253 (1.6%) metachronous cancers were detected, 30% of these within 2 years of the index malignancy. While it could be argued that second cancers found so soon after surgery were in many instances missed synchronous (rather than metachronous) lesions, the importance of detecting them remains undiminished. Thus, the US Guidelines’ re-iterated previous recommendations to perform post-operative colonoscopy at an interval of 1 year (with subsequent colonoscopies after an interval of 3 years and then 5 years, if all surveillance examinations were normal).
Evidence summary and recommendations[edit source]
|Follow-up colonoscopy reduces the mortality rate of patients after colorectal cancer (CRC) resection. Most studies demonstrate a significant incidence of metachronous cancers, advanced adenomas and other types of polyps after curative resection for CRC.||II, III-2, III-3||, , , , , , , , , , , , |
|In many studies, a high proportion of the metachronous neoplasia occurred within the first 2 years after surgery.||III-3|||
Patients with incomplete colonoscopy pre-operatively (e.g. impassable distal lesion) should have a semi-urgent elective post-operative colonoscopy when feasible, independent of surveillance intervals.
Table 18. Charlson score for colonoscopy benefit
(3 points for age)
|May have one of these conditions only (1 point each):
Mild liver disease
Diabetes without end-organ damage
Connective tissue disease
Chronic pulmonary disease
Peripheral vascular disease
Congestive heart failure
|May not have any of these medical conditions
(≥1 point each):
Moderate/severe liver disease
Diabetes with end-organ damage
Moderate or severe renal disease
Metastatic or non-metastatic solid organ or haematopoietic malignancy
(4 points for age)
|May not have any of the above medical conditions|
Health system implications[edit source]
Clinical practice[edit source]
No significant effects on clinical practice are anticipated, because the evidence-based recommendations and consensus-based recommendations have not changed.
No significant effects on resource requirements are anticipated, because the evidence-based recommendations and consensus-based recommendations have not changed.
Barriers to implementation[edit source]
No significant barriers to the implementation of these recommendations have been identified.
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|PICO question FUC1||Systematic review report FUC1|