Variability in melanoma post-treatment surveillance practices by country and physician specialty: A systematic review

Kate D. Cromwell, Merrick I. Ross, Yan Xing, Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, Richard E. Royal, Anthony Lucci, Jeffrey E. Lee, Janice N. Cormier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


There are no evidence-based guidelines for the surveillance of patients with melanoma following surgical treatment. We carried out a systematic review to identify by country and physician specialty the current stage-specific surveillance practices for patients with melanoma. Three major medical indices, MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library database, and Scopus, were reviewed to identify articles published from January 1970 to October 2011 that included detailed information about the surveillance of patients with melanoma after the initial surgical treatment. Data on surveillance intervals and recommended evaluation were extracted and categorized by country and, when reported, physician specialty. One hundred and four articles from 10 countries and four physician specialties (dermatology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, and general practice) fulfilled the inclusion criteria, including 43 providing specific patient-level data. The articles showed a wide variation with respect to the surveillance intervals and recommended evaluations. The variation was greatest for patients with stage I disease, for whom the follow-up frequency ranged from one to six visits per year during years 1 and 2 after treatment. All four physician specialties agreed that for years 1-3, the follow-up frequency should be four times per year for all patients. For years 4 and 5, surgical oncologists recommended two follow-up visits per year, whereas general practitioners, dermatologists, and medical oncologists recommended four visits per year. Recommended imaging and laboratory evaluations were most intense in the UK and most minimalist in the Netherlands. Although general practitioners did not recommend routine laboratory or imaging tests for surveillance, all other specialties utilized both in their surveillance practice. Self skin-examination was recommended for surveillance in all countries and by all practitioner specialties. There are significant intercountry and interspecialty variations in the surveillance of patients with melanoma. As the number of melanoma survivors increases, it will be critical to examine the benefits and costs of various follow-up strategies to establish consensus guidelines for melanoma post-treatment surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-385
Number of pages10
JournalMelanoma Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • melanoma
  • patient care
  • post-treatment surveillance
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Dermatology
  • Cancer Research


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