Last Updated: 2003-03-13 11:24:57 -0400 (Reuters Health)
WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) - Appropriate follow-up can be particularly helpful in early detection of metastases in patients with cutaneous melanoma, German researchers report in the February 1st issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In fact, lead investigator Dr. Claus Garbe told Reuters Health that "a thorough and scheduled follow-up contributes to cutaneous melanoma patients' survival more than any expensive and much more time-consuming adjuvant drug therapy."
Dr. Garbe of Eberhard-Karls-University, Tuebingen, and colleagues came to these conclusions after prospectively studying 2008 such patients who, over a 2-year period, were followed according to German Society of Dermatology guidelines.
During this time, 3800 clinical examinations were conducted and 12,398 x-ray and sonographic images were made. Overall, 62 second primary melanomas were detected in 46 patients and 233 disease recurrences were seen in 112 patients.
Physical examination led to discovery of 50% of all recurrences. In the primary tumor stages, 21% of recurrences were uncovered by lymph node sonography. Most were deemed as being detected early.
Overall, 48% of such discoveries were categorized as early detection at the time of diagnosis, and say the investigators "considered to be curable by surgery."
They also point out that the intensity of examinations "can be reduced during follow-up of patients in the primary tumor stages and may be intensified in locoregional disease."
However, for success Dr. Garbe stressed, "surveillance by scheduled follow-up examinations should be well designed according to the respective patient's risk, and then strictly followed by the patient and by the doctor."
J Clin Oncol 2003;21:520-529.