Long-term follow-up strategies can be defined for patients with early-stage lung cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (2010 Aug;5(8):1246-50).

For the study, led by Ryo Maeda, MD, researchers identified 519 patients with stage IA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who underwent complete resection and quantified the risk of late recurrence for those who remained recurrence-free for more than 5 years after complete tumor resection.

The results of the study revealed that in patients with stage IA NSCLC without vascular invasion, 5 years may be sufficient to declare that the patients are cured. However, researchers determined that patients with stage IA NSCLC with vascular invasion need follow-up until at least 9 years after resection.

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The research team identified the presence of vascular invasion as one independent significant predictor of late recurrence in stage IA 5-year recurrence-free survivors. Specifically, the 5-year recurrence-free probability from the benchmark was 84% for patients with vascular invasion and 95% for patients without vascular invasion.

“If they are recurrence-free, patients without vascular invasion may be declared cured at 5 years after resection,” noted Dr. Maeda. “On the other hand, patients with stage IA NSCLC with vascular invasion, 5 years without recurrence is not sufficient to conclude that NSCLC is cured.”