As tests evolve and costs of cancer care rise: reappraising stool-based screening for colorectal neoplasia

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Apr;27(8):697-712. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2008.03632.x. Epub 2008 Jan 29.


Background: Colorectal cancer screening and treatment are rapidly evolving. Aims To reappraise stool-based colorectal cancer screening in light of changing test performance characteristics, lower test cost and increasing colorectal cancer care costs.

Methods: Using a Markov model, we compared faecal DNA testing every 3 years, annual faecal occult blood testing or immunochemical testing, and colonoscopy every 10 years.

Results: In the base case, faecal occult blood testing and faecal immunochemical testing gained life-years/person and cost less than no screening. Faecal DNA testing version 1.1 at $300 (the current PreGen Plus test) gained 5323 life-years/100 000 persons at $16 900/life-year gained and faecal DNA testing version 2 (enhanced test) gained 5795 life-years/100 000 persons at $15 700/life-year gained vs. no screening. In the base case and most sensitivity analyses, faecal occult blood testing and faecal immunochemical testing were preferred to faecal DNA testing. Faecal DNA testing version 2 cost $100 000/life-year gained vs. faecal immunochemical testing when per-cycle adherence with faecal immunochemical testing was 22%. Faecal immunochemical testing with excellent adherence was superior to colonoscopy every 10 years.

Conclusions: As novel biological therapies increase colorectal cancer treatment costs, faecal occult blood testing and faecal immunochemical testing could become cost-saving. The cost-effectiveness of faecal DNA testing compared with no screening has improved, but faecal occult blood testing and faecal immunochemical testing are preferred to faecal DNA testing when patient adherence is high. Faecal immunochemical testing may be comparable to colonoscopy every 10 years in persons adhering to yearly testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Colonoscopy / economics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Occult Blood
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years