Fecal Occult Blood Testing When Colonoscopy Capacity is Limited

Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Impact Factor: 12.58). 11/2011; 103(23):1741-51. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djr385
Source: PubMed


Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) can be adapted to a limited colonoscopy capacity by narrowing the age range or extending the screening interval, by using a more specific test or hemoglobin cutoff level for referral to colonoscopy, and by restricting surveillance colonoscopy. Which of these options is most clinically effective and cost-effective has yet to be established.
We used the validated MISCAN-Colon microsimulation model to estimate the number of colonoscopies, costs, and health effects of different screening strategies using guaiac FOBT or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) at various hemoglobin cutoff levels between 50 and 200 ng hemoglobin per mL, different surveillance strategies, and various age ranges. We optimized the allocation of a limited number of colonoscopies on the basis of incremental cost-effectiveness.
When colonoscopy capacity was unlimited, the optimal screening strategy was to administer an annual FIT with a 50 ng/mL hemoglobin cutoff level in individuals aged 45-80 years and to offer colonoscopy surveillance to all individuals with adenomas. When colonoscopy capacity was decreasing, the optimal screening adaptation was to first increase the FIT hemoglobin cutoff value to 200 ng hemoglobin per mL and narrow the age range to 50-75 years, to restrict colonoscopy surveillance, and finally to further decrease the number of screening rounds. FIT screening was always more cost-effective compared with guaiac FOBT. Doubling colonoscopy capacity increased the benefits of FIT screening up to 100%.
FIT should be used at higher hemoglobin cutoff levels when colonoscopy capacity is limited compared with unlimited and is more effective in terms of health outcomes and cost compared with guaiac FOBT at all colonoscopy capacity levels. Increasing the colonoscopy capacity substantially increases the health benefits of FIT screening.

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    • "Thus, while recent studies continue to build the clinical case for screening with FIT in preference to other tests [56-59], the implication of our results is that any FIT-based programme – in Ireland or elsewhere – will have to plan carefully how to deliver sufficient services for initial diagnosis and ongoing surveillance. The types of analyses illustrated here, and elsewhere [60], could usefully inform that planning process. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Organised colorectal cancer screening is likely to be cost-effective, but cost-effectiveness results alone may not help policy makers to make decisions about programme feasibility or service providers to plan programme delivery. For these purposes, estimates of the impact on the health services of actually introducing screening in the target population would be helpful. However, these types of analyses are rarely reported. As an illustration of such an approach, we estimated annual health service resource requirements and health outcomes over the first decade of a population-based colorectal cancer screening programme in Ireland. Methods A Markov state-transition model of colorectal neoplasia natural history was used. Three core screening scenarios were considered: (a) flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) once at age 60, (b) biennial guaiac-based faecal occult blood tests (gFOBT) at 55–74 years, and (c) biennial faecal immunochemical tests (FIT) at 55–74 years. Three alternative FIT roll-out scenarios were also investigated relating to age-restricted screening (55–64 years) and staggered age-based roll-out across the 55–74 age group. Parameter estimates were derived from literature review, existing screening programmes, and expert opinion. Results were expressed in relation to the 2008 population (4.4 million people, of whom 700,800 were aged 55–74). Results FIT-based screening would deliver the greatest health benefits, averting 164 colorectal cancer cases and 272 deaths in year 10 of the programme. Capacity would be required for 11,095-14,820 diagnostic and surveillance colonoscopies annually, compared to 381–1,053 with FSIG-based, and 967–1,300 with gFOBT-based, screening. With FIT, in year 10, these colonoscopies would result in 62 hospital admissions for abdominal bleeding, 27 bowel perforations and one death. Resource requirements for pathology, diagnostic radiology, radiotherapy and colorectal resection were highest for FIT. Estimates depended on screening uptake. Alternative FIT roll-out scenarios had lower resource requirements. Conclusions While FIT-based screening would quite quickly generate attractive health outcomes, it has heavy resource requirements. These could impact on the feasibility of a programme based on this screening modality. Staggered age-based roll-out would allow time to increase endoscopy capacity to meet programme requirements. Resource modelling of this type complements conventional cost-effectiveness analyses and can help inform policy making and service planning.
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  • Journal of the National Cancer Institute 11/2011; 103(23):1726-8. DOI:10.1093/jnci/djr446 · 12.58 Impact Factor
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