Surveillance programmes among women who have been operated on for breast cancer does nothing to improve survival rates, a study has concluded.

It remains to be seen if the results will have any impact on post-operative surveillance practices, which are widespread in medicine and are carried out at great cost. They involve frequent laboratory investigations to detect early signs of further cancer growth.

But a major study carried out on 1320 women from 26 general hospitals around Italy shows the programmes are not effective. In two study groups, the number of deaths hardly differed between the group that did not take part in a surveillance programme and the one that did. Health related quality of life was also no different.

!AJAMA, 25 May 1994.

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