Renal cell carcinoma: evaluation of the 1997 TNM system and recommendations for follow-up after surgery

O N Gofrit, A Shapiro, N Kovalski, E H Landau, O Z Shenfeld, D Pode
European Urology 2001, 39 (6): 669-74; discussion 675

OBJECTIVE: We evaluated the tumor recurrence pattern after radical or nephron-sparing surgery for localized renal cell carcinoma. Based on this pattern, we suggest a surveillance protocol after surgery.

METHODS: The outcome of 200 consecutive patients with localized renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that were operated on between January 1982 and December 1997 was evaluated retrospectively. Radical nephrectomy was performed in 155 patients (77.5%), and nephron-sparing surgery in 45 patients (22.5%). The timing and site of disease recurrence were correlated with parameters of the primary tumor.

RESULTS: One hundred and twenty-four patients (62%) had pathological stage T1, 26 (13%) had stage T2, and 50 (25%) had stage T3 (41 stage T3a, 8 stage T3b, and 1 stage T3c). The mean follow-up was 47 months (range 6--169 months). Four patients (3.2%) with stage T1, 6 patients (23%) with T2, and 13 patients (26%) with T3 developed recurrent disease. None of the patients with a stage T1 tumor, smaller than 4 cm, had tumor recurrence. There were no recurrences after nephron-sparing surgery compared to 23 recurrences (14.8%) among patients after radical nephrectomy (p = 0.01). Only 1 patient who underwent pulmonary lobectomy for asymptomatic metastases smaller than 2.5 cm, found by routine chest CT, attained long-term survival.

CONCLUSIONS: The prognosis of patients after radical nephrectomy for renal cell carcinoma, smaller than 4 cm, is excellent and they do not need radiological follow-up. Patients with larger T1 tumors, 4--7 cm in diameter, or a higher stage should be followed with CT of the chest and abdomen done every 6 months for 5 years and then annually. Following partial nephrectomy of small renal tumors periodic renal ultrasonography should be done to rule out local recurrence in the operated kidney.

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