Follow-up of oral cancer patients: three uneventful years may be enough

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To explore the possibility of shortening the length of follow-up from 5 to 3 years in patients who have undergone curative treatment of an oral squamous cell carcinoma.

Study Design.

The medical records of 225 patients who had undergone initial curative treatment at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, between 2004 and 2009 were analyzed.


In 96 patients (42.7%) a secondary event occurred. Eighty-six percent of the secondary events were detected within 3 years. In the fourth and fifth years, 14% of the secondary events were found, consisting mainly of second primary tumors.


Most secondary events occurred within the first 3 years of follow-up. Therefore, the case can be made for an altered regimen of follow-up beyond 3 years based on certain risk factors unique to the patient as well as the patient's ability to adequately report symptoms that may be associated with recurrent disease.

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