Real-Time Monitoring of Results During First Year of Dutch Colorectal Cancer Screening Program and Optimization by Altering Fecal Immunochemical Test Cut-Off Levels

Gastroenterology. 2017 Mar;152(4):767-775.e2. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.11.022. Epub 2016 Nov 24.


Background & aims: After careful pilot studies and planning, the national screening program for colorectal cancer (CRC), with biennial fecal immunochemical tests (FITs), was initiated in The Netherlands in 2014. A national information system for real-time monitoring was developed to allow for timely evaluation. Data were collected from the first year of this screening program to determine the importance of planning and monitoring for optimal screening program performance.

Methods: The national information system of the CRC screening program kept track of the number of invitations sent in 2014, FIT kits returned, and colonoscopies performed. Age-adjusted rates of participation, the number of positive test results, and positive predictive values (PPVs) for advanced neoplasia were determined weekly, quarterly, and yearly.

Results: In 2014, there were 741,914 persons invited for FIT; of these, 529,056 (71.3%; 95% CI, 71.2%-71.4%) participated. A few months into the program, real-time monitoring showed that rates of participation and positive test results (10.6%; 95% CI, 10.5%-10.8%) were higher than predicted and the PPV was lower (42.1%; 95% CI, 41.3%-42.9%) than predicted based on pilot studies. To reduce the burden of unnecessary colonoscopies and alleviate colonoscopy capacity, the cut-off level for a positive FIT result was increased from 15 to 47 μg Hb/g feces halfway through 2014. This adjustment decreased the percentage of positive test results to 6.7% (95% CI, 6.6%-6.8%) and increased the PPV to 49.1% (95% CI, 48.3%-49.9%). In total, the first year of the Dutch screening program resulted in the detection of 2483 cancers and 12,030 advanced adenomas.

Conclusions: Close monitoring of the implementation of the Dutch national CRC screening program allowed for instant adjustment of the FIT cut-off levels to optimize program performance.

Keywords: Advanced Neoplasia; Colon Cancer; Early Detection; Population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis*
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Program Evaluation
  • Unnecessary Procedures / statistics & numerical data