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The process and outcomes of a nurse-led colorectal cancer follow-up clinic


C. Wakeman, MMedSc, FRACS, Colorectal Unit, Department of Surgery, Christchurch Hospital, Riccarton Ave, Christchurch 8002, New Zealand.


Aim  Evidence suggests that follow-up after colorectal cancer improves survival. Colorectal cancer is so common that patient follow-up can overwhelm a service, affecting the ability to see new referrals and reassess patients seen previously who have new symptoms. In order to cope with this demand a nurse-led follow-up service was started in 2004. We aimed to review the results of a nurse-led colorectal cancer follow-up clinic.

Method  Between 1 December 2004 and 31 January 2011, patients who underwent resection for colorectal cancer were followed up by a nurse specialist according to a protocol determined by the colorectal surgeons in the unit. All patient details were recorded prospectively in a purpose designed database.

Results  Nine hundred and fifty patients were followed up over 7 years. Some 368 patients were discharged from the follow-up programme, 474 patients remain actively involved in the programme and 108 patients died. Of the patients discharged from the follow-up scheme 269 (73%) were discharged to their general practitioner free of disease after 5 years. Of the 108 who patients died, 98 were as a result of colorectal cancer. Twenty patients (2.1%) were identified with local (peri-anastomotic) disease recurrence and 93 patients (9.8%) were found to have developed distant metastatic disease. Of these, 65 patients (6.8%) were referred for palliative care and 28 (2.9%) had surgery for focal metastatic disease of whom 18 were still alive at the time of this analysis.

Conclusion  This paper shows that a nurse-led clinic for colorectal cancer follow-up can achieve satisfactory results with detection rates of recurrent or metastatic disease comparable to consultant follow-up. A nurse-led clinic provides the benefits of follow-up without overwhelming the consultant colorectal surgical clinic practice.