Clinical outcomes using a faecal immunochemical test for haemoglobin as a first-line test in a national programme constrained by colonoscopy capacity

United European Gastroenterol J. 2013 Jun;1(3):198-205. doi: 10.1177/2050640613489281.


Introduction: Because of their many advantages, faecal immunochemical tests (FIT) are superseding traditional guaiac-based faecal occult blood tests in bowel screening programmes.

Methods: A quantitative FIT was adopted for use in two evaluation National Health Service (NHS) Boards in Scotland using a cut-off faecal haemoglobin concentration chosen to give a positivity rate equivalent to that achieved in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. Uptake and clinical outcomes were compared with results obtained contemporaneously in two other similar NHS Boards and before and after the evaluation in the two evaluation NHS Boards.

Results: During the evaluation, uptake was 58.5%. This was higher than in the same NHS Boards both before and after the evaluation, higher than in the other two NHS Boards and higher than the 53.7% achieved overall in Scotland. The overall positivity rate was higher in men than in women and increased with age in both genders. Positive predictive values for cancer (4.8%), high-risk adenoma (23.3%), all adenoma (38.2%) and all neoplasia (43.0%) in the two test NHS Boards were similar in all groups.

Conclusions: In summary, this evaluation of the FIT supports the introduction of FIT as a first-line test, even when colonoscopy capacity is limited.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; faecal immunochemical test; faecal occult blood test; positive predictive value; screening.