Although the high incidence of subsequent tumors is well established there is accumulating evidence that few cases of low grade, low stage transitional cell carcinomas will progress in stage. Since the purpose of intensive endoscopic monitoring following initial tumor resection is to detect potentially lethal new tumors as soon as possible, we reviewed retrospectively the course of 36 patients with an initial grade I, stage O (Ta) transitional cell carcinoma to determine whether cytology was capable of achieving this goal. Of these patients 10 (28%) had a subsequent tumor of a higher grade or stage. Cytology performed at or before recurrence was positive in 8 patients (80%) and 2 (20%) had grade II, noninvasive transitional cell carcinoma with negative cytology. Subsequent tumors in these 2 patients have been grade I. All 36 patients are alive. Given the patient inconvenience, expense and risk of infection of cystoscopy compared to cytology, this retrospective review suggests that when an experienced cytopathologist is available patients with grade I, noninvasive transitional cell carcinoma may be monitored primarily by urinary cytology with less frequent endoscopy. A prospective study must be performed to confirm this approach.
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