Detection of recurrence in early stage endometrial cancer: the role of symptoms and routine follow-up

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Background: Considerable controversy remains as to the optimal organization of endometrial cancer follow-up. Aim: To evaluate the relationship between the way recurrence was detected and survival after treatment for endometrial cancer. Further, to identify characteristics associated with a pre-scheduled examination in women with symptomatic recurrence. Material and methods: All women with early stage endometrial cancer during 2005–2009 were included in a population-based historical cohort derived from the Danish Gynecological Cancer Database. Women diagnosed with recurrence within three years after primary surgery and the mode of recurrence detection were identified from hospital charts: asymptomatic recurrence detected at regular follow-up, symptomatic recurrence detected at regular follow-up or symptomatic recurrence detected in between follow-up. Survival of women with symptomatic and asymptomatic disease was compared. Furthermore, characteristics associated with self-referral as compared to presenting symptoms at regular follow-ups were identified using univariate analyses. Results: In total, 183 cases of recurrence (7%) were identified in the cohort of 2612 women. Of these, 65.5% were symptomatic with vaginal bleeding as the most prevalent symptom. Asymptomatic women had a significantly better three-year survival rate compared to symptomatic women (80.3% vs. 54.3%, p < 0.01). A total of 2.3% of the entire population had an asymptomatic recurrence. Women diagnosed at a pre-scheduled visit due to symptoms had a higher educational level (p = 0.03) and more often high-risk disease (p = 0.02) than symptomatic women diagnosed at regular follow-up. Conclusion: Early stage endometrial cancer carries a low risk of recurrence. Survival appears to be superior in asymptomatic patients, but length-time bias, i.e. the effect of aggressive tumor biology in symptomatic recurrences, may bias results in non-randomized controlled trials. Well educated patients with symptoms of recurrence more often sought medical attendance compared to less educated counterparts. This should be considered if patient-initiated follow-up is the standard care.

TidsskriftActa Oncologica
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)262-269
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2017


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