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 This is an original JCO publication from 2005. Please visit the JCO website to access the full article.

Follow-Up Care, Surveillance Protocol, and Secondary Prevention Measures for Survivors of Colorectal Cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline Endorsement 



Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, Pamela B. Mangu, Patrick J. Flynn, Larissa Korde, Charles L. Loprinzi, Bruce D. Minsky, Nicholas J. Petrelli, Kim Ryan, Deborah H. Schrag, Sandra L. Wong, and Al B. Benson III 


ASCO endorses the CCO Practice Guideline on Follow-up Care, Surveillance Protocol, and Secondary Prevention Measures for Survivors of CRC, with qualifying statements


  • Follow-up, surveillance, and secondary prevention measures for survivors of CRC, stages II and III (not stage I or resected metastatic disease, both of which have minimal data to provide guidance

Target Audience

  • Medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, primary care providers, and others involved in the delivery of care for CRC survivors
  • Patients and family members of patients who have survived CRC

ASCO Key Recommendations

  • Surveillance should be guided by presumed risk of recurrence and functional status of patient where early detection would lead to aggressive treatment including surgery. It is especially important in the first 2 to 4 years, when the risk of recurrence is the greatest.

  • A medical history, physical examination, and CEA testing should be performed every 3 to 6 months for 5years. The frequency of visits and testing should be driven by the data showing that 80% of recurrences occur in the first 2 to 2.5 years from date of surgery and 95% occur by 5 years. Patients at a higher risk of recurrence should be considered for testing in the more frequent end of the range.

  • Abdominal and chest imaging using a CT scan is recommended annually for 3years. For high-risk patients, it is reasonable to consider imaging every 6 to 12 months for the first 3 years. Outside of a clinical trial, PET scans are not recommended for surveillance.

  • For patients with rectal cancer, a pelvic CT is also recommended. Clinician judgment, considering risk status, should be used to determine the frequency of pelvic scans (eg, annually for 3 to 5 years). For those patients who have not received pelvic radiation, a rectosigmoidoscopy should be performed every 6 months for 2 to 5 years.

  • A surveillance colonoscopy should be performed approximately 1 year after the initial surgery. The frequency of subsequent surveillance colonoscopies should be dictated by the findings of the previous one, but they generally should be performed every 5 years if the findings of the previous one are normal. If a complete colonoscopy was not performed before diagnosis, a colonoscopy should be done as soon as reasonable after completion of adjuvant therapy and not necessarily at the 1-year time point.

  • Any new and persistent or worsening symptoms warrant the consideration of a recurrence.

  • Despite the lack of high-quality evidence on secondary prevention in CRC survivors, it is reasonable to counsel patients on maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active, and eating a healthy diet.

  • A treatment plan from the specialist should be sent to the patient’s other providers, particularly the primary care physician, and it should have clear directions on appropriate follow-up.

  • If a patient is not a surgical candidate or a candidate for systemic therapy because of severe comorbid conditions, surveillance tests should not be performed.







ASCO Guideline Disclaimer: The clinical practice guidelines and other guidance published herein are provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (“ASCO”) to assist practitioners in clinical decision making. The information therein should not be relied upon as being complete or accurate, nor should it be considered as inclusive of all proper treatments or methods of care or as a statement of the standard of care. With the rapid development of scientific knowledge, new evidence may emerge between the time information is developed and when it is published or read. The information is not continually updated and may not reflect the most recent evidence. The information addresses only the topics specifically identified therein and is not applicable to other interventions, diseases, or stages of diseases. This information does not mandate any particular course of medical care. Further, the information is not intended to substitute for the independent professional judgment of the treating physician, as the information does not account for individual variation among patients. Recommendations reflect high, moderate or low confidence that the recommendation reflects the net effect of a given course of action.  The use of words like “must,” “must not,” “should,” and “should not” indicate that a course of action is recommended or not recommended for either most or many patients, but there is latitude for the treating physician to select other courses of action in individual cases. In all cases, the selected course of action should be considered by the treating physician in the context of treating the individual patient. Use of the information is voluntary.  ASCO provides this information on an “as is” basis, and makes no warranty, express or implied, regarding the information. ASCO specifically disclaims any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular use or purpose. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of this information or for any errors or omissions.

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