Sensitivity of immunochemical faecal occult blood testing for detecting left- vs right-sided colorectal neoplasia

Br J Cancer. 2011 May 24;104(11):1779-85. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.160. Epub 2011 May 10.


Background: Faecal occult blood tests (FOBTs) are used for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. We aimed to assess the sensitivity of an immunochemical FOBT for detecting advanced colorectal neoplasia in the left vs the right colon and to explore reasons for potential differences in site-specific test performance.

Methods: We prospectively measured faecal occult blood levels by a quantitative immunochemical FOBT (RIDASCREEN) in 2310 average-risk subjects undergoing screening colonoscopy. We compared diagnostic performance for subjects with left- vs right-sided advanced neoplasia, as well as patient characteristics and adenoma characteristics that have been suggested to impact faecal haemoglobin levels.

Results: Sensitivities for subjects with left- vs right-sided advanced neoplasia were 33% (95% confidence interval (CI), 26-41%) and 20% (CI, 11-31%) (P=0.04) at a specificity of 95% (overall sensitivity: 29%) and the areas under the receiver-operating characteristics curve were 0.71 (CI, 0.69-0.72) and 0.60 (CI, 0.58-0.63), respectively. Pedunculated shape was strikingly more common in participants with left- vs right-sided advanced neoplasia (47% vs 14%). In logistic regression analyses adjusted for site, pedunculated shape was statistically significantly associated with test sensitivity (P=0.04).

Conclusions: The immunochemical FOBT in our study was more sensitive for detecting subjects with left- vs right-sided advanced colorectal neoplasia. Our findings may stimulate further diagnostic research in the field as well as modelling analyses to estimate the potential effect of site-specific test performance on the effectiveness of annual or biennial FOBT-based screening programmes, in particular with respect to protection from right-sided CRC.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / standards
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity