Suggested Follow-up

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In the absence of a single ideal time for follow-up of the 4 cancers included in this review, the researchers offer this consensus opinion:

  • Breast cancer Patients should undergo diagnostic testing within 60 days, and no later than 90 days after screening mammography.
  • Cervical cancer Diagnostic testing with appropriate follow-up should be initiated within 90 days of screening. 
  • Colorectal cancer Patients should undergo diagnostic testing with appropriate follow-up within 90 days, but no later than 180 days after screening.
  • Lung cancer Diagnostic testing with appropriate follow up should be initiated within 60 days of screening.

The researchers note that to be effective, cancer screening must be followed up with diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of cancer and to what stage the cancer has progressed. They note that failing to follow up cancer screening belies the philosophy of offering critical clinical care when it can be most beneficial. Letting patients wait longer for screening follow-up often means putting those patients at increased risk for worse outcomes.

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.  


Doubeni CA, Gabler NB, Wheeler CM, et al. (2018), Timely follow‐up of positive cancer screening results: a systematic review and recommendations from the PROSPR Consortium [published online March 30, 2018]. CA Cancer J Clin. doi: 10.3322/caac.21452