Costs of follow-up after potentially curative treatment for extremity soft-tissue sarcoma
- Anupam Goel
- Matthew E.L. Christy
- Katherine S. Virgo
- William G. Kraybill
- Frank E. Johnson
Published online on: Sunday, August 1, 2004
Soft-tissue sarcoma is an uncommon cancer with the potential for high rates of recurrence after initial therapy. Multiple surveillance strategies have been developed to follow patients after primary treatment. The purpose of this study was to quantify the costs associated with various published post-treatment surveillance strategies. A literature review covering the years 1982-2003 was performed to find all modern published surveillance methods for extremity soft-tissue sarcoma. Only articles describing an explicit 5-year follow-up strategy were included. Total costs of 5-year follow-up were calculated for each strategy using Medicare-allowed charges as a proxy. Thirty-four articles depicting 54 strategies were identified. Total Medicare-allowed charges in year 2003 dollars ranged from __AMB__dollar;485 for follow-up of low-grade sarcoma to __AMB__dollar;21,235 for follow-up of high-grade sarcoma, a 42.8-fold cost differential. The average charge for these 54 strategies was __AMB__dollar;6,401. Physical examination and chest x-ray were the most commonly used screening modalities. Several guidelines have been proposed for extremity soft-tissue sarcoma patient follow-up, most prominently those of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. The literature has yet to reflect the consensus these guidelines suggest. This study shows wide disparity in the costs of 54 specific methods of following soft-tissue sarcoma patients. Clinical trials are needed to identify an optimal surveillance strategy, one balancing gains in survival, quality of life, costs, and societal willingness to expend resources. Such trials have not been conducted due to the rarity of extremity soft-tissue sarcomas and the costs associated with conducting long-term trials. Alternatively, prospective evaluation of imaging modalities used in follow-up should be assessed as part of other trials. Computer simulation analysis also holds great promise as an assessment tool for surveillance strategies because patient participation is not required.