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Routine Surveillance CT Costly, Unnecessary in Lymphoma in Remission

August 2013 Vol 6, No 6 Special Issue
Caroline Helwick

Chicago, IL—Routine surveillance imaging is of little value in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) or classical Hodgkin lymphoma who are in remission, researchers from 2 institutions reported.

“DLBCL is clinically aggressive but potentially curable, even after relapse,” said Carrie A. Thompson, MD, Hematology Division, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. “However, the optimal follow-up strategy is not clear.”

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends a surveillance computed tomography (CT) scan every 3 months to 6 months for 5 years posttreatment. Dr Thompson’s study enrolled 644 patients with DLBCL; 537 of them entered posttreatment observation. Of these, 20% (109) relapsed.

Of the 100 patients who were evaluable, 62 presented earlier than the planned follow-up visit because of symptoms. Overall, 87% of patients had at least 1 feature indicative of relapse.

Of the 38 patients whose relapse was detected at a planned visit, only 12 had the relapse detected solely by a surveillance scan. Only 1.5% of patients had a relapse that would have only been detected by a surveillance CT scan while in remission, Dr Thompson said.

“Routine surveillance scans posttherapy add little to the detection of DLBCL,” Dr Thompson said.

A second study presented at ASCO 2013 included 241 patients with lymphoma: 164 had surveillance CT and 77 had clinical surveillance only.
Patients who relapsed in the clinical surveillance group had an average of 17.6 scans per relapse compared with 123.8 scans in the imaging group, resulting in additional costs of $593,698 per relapse.

At a median follow-up of approximately 4 years, there were 5 (3.8%) deaths in the imaging group and 4 (5.3%) in the clinical surveillance group, yielding a similar overall survival rate.

“We don’t feel that the potential risks and costs, without overall survival benefit or any other clinical benefit, justify the practice” of routine imaging in patients with lymphoma, said Sai Ravi Pingali, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals, who conducted the study.

Leo I. Gordon, MD, Abby and John Friend Professor of Oncology Research, Northwestern University Feinberg Medical School, Chicago, IL, said that a physical examination can detect most relapses: the cost of an office visit is relatively inexpensive and does not expose patients to radiation, whereas 1 scan costs approximately $5000 and involves radiation exposure.

“We can at least say that no data support the use of routine surveillance CT scans in clinical practice in classical Hodgkin lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in remissions. I think we must reeducate ourselves as clinicians,” Dr Gordon said.

Last modified: August 22, 2013
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