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Follow up scans

Posts: 40
Joined: May 2012

So, we (my husband) had a stage 3 diagnosis in May, chemo and radiation May and June, a minimally invasive esophagectomy in August. The scan before surgery showed no active cancer, the pathology report after surgery showed no active cancer. They said come back in three months for another scan. That was last week, the scan was good, they said no sign of cancer. The oncologist said to my husband “there is a cyst on your kidney, I’m not worried about it particularly but I want to do a scan again in 4 months just to check on it. After that, there will be no more scans.”

I looked at him and said “What???” He said we don’t do scans once the cancer is gone. He said the scans would only subject him to more harmful radiation. Then he said “either the cancer will come back or it won’t. If it comes back, it will be in his liver and there is nothing we can about it”.

Has anyone ever had a doctor tell them that or know of anyone whose ever had a doctor tell them that? I was pretty much speechless at that point and couldn’t even think about questions I might have when he asked if I had any questions. I’ve got some now…..

Is it time to look for a new doctor or does this make any sense at all?


paul61's picture
Posts: 1250
Joined: Apr 2010


I also have a cyst on my kidney that shows up on each scan I get. I had an esophagectomy a little over three years ago and each time I have a scan it is noted. My oncologist tells me it is nothing to be concerned about and apparently fairly common.

On the subject of scans however, I have never heard of stopping scans so quickly after surgery. I had CT scans every six months for the first two years and then annually thereafter. I also have an annual endoscopy with biopsies at the anastomisis site. It is my understanding that most people receive annual scans until they reach the 5 year mark.

Your oncologist is correct, the prognosis for recurrent esophageal cancer is grim, but I do know several survivors that have had recurrence and received treatment and are still surviving.

I know insurance companies continue to pressure doctors to reduce the number of tests and scans but I think your oncologist may be acting on his own opinions and not standard practice guidelines.

If I were you I would get a second opinion from a different oncologist and ask about the standard follow up recommendations from the National Cancer Institute. Here is a reference to their cancer treatment follow up site.

NCI Cancer Treatment Follow Up

I hope your husband's scans continue to be clear.

Best Regards,

Paul Adams
McCormick, South Carolina

DX 10/22/2009 T2N1M0 Stage IIB
12/03/2009 Ivor Lewis
2/8 through 6/14/2010 Adjuvant Chemo Cisplatin, Epirubicin, 5 FU
Three year survivor

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance!

Posts: 40
Joined: May 2012

Thank you for the information Paul. I think we will seek a 2nd opinion on the scanning situation.

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