Objective: To assess the practicability and efficacy of systematic screening for renal cell carcinoma (RCC) by ultrasonography (US), as more small RCCs are being detected incidentally by US.
Subjects and methods: A 2-year screening programme for RCC was established for the general population (aged >or= 40 years) in two German cities, Mainz and Wuppertal. In cooperation with different health insurers, the organisers recruited general practitioners, internists and urologists in private practice who were experienced in and equipped to conduct renal US. The screening was offered in the form of cost-free renal US in the first year and a re-examination in the second. For any equivocal or positive renal mass, a reference ultrasonogram was provided by the urology departments at the two university hospitals.
Results: In all, 9959 volunteers participated in the screening programme (49% men, 51% women, mean age 61 years, range 40-94) in the first year. Of these participants, 79% returned for re-examination in the second year. Thirteen (0.1%) subjects were found to have a renal mass, of which nine were RCC. The sensitivity of the programme was 82% (at the 1-year follow-up), and the predictive value 2% for equivocal findings on initial examination and 50% for positive findings. The incidence of other abnormal findings was 12%.
Conclusion: The screening programme was well accepted by physicians in private practice and by the eligible population. The method was effective, especially if equivocal findings were re-assessed by reference US before using further imaging studies, e.g. computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.