Randomized Trial of Facilitated Adherence to Screening Colonoscopy vs Sequential Fecal-Based Blood Test

Gastroenterology. 2023 Jul;165(1):252-266. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2023.03.206. Epub 2023 Mar 21.


Background & aims: Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening guidelines include screening colonoscopy and sequential high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (HSgFOBT), with expectation of similar effectiveness based on the assumption of similar high adherence. However, adherence to screening colonoscopy compared with sequential HSgFOBT has not been reported. In this randomized clinical trial, we assessed adherence and pathology findings for a single screening colonoscopy vs sequential and nonsequential HSgFOBTs.

Methods: Participants aged 40-69 years were enrolled at 3 centers representing different clinical settings. Participants were randomized into a single screening colonoscopy arm vs sequential HSgFOBT arm composed of 4-7 rounds. Initial adherence to screening colonoscopy and sequential adherence to HSgFOBT, follow-up colonoscopy for positive HSgFOBT tests, crossover to colonoscopy, and detection of advanced neoplasia or large serrated lesions (ADN-SERs) were measured.

Results: There were 3523 participants included in the trial; 1761 and 1762 participants were randomized to the screening colonoscopy and HSgFOBT arms, respectively. Adherence was 1473 (83.6%) for the screening colonoscopy arm vs 1288 (73.1%) for the HSgFOBT arm after 1 round (relative risk [RR], 1.14; 95% CI, 1.10-1.19; P ≤ .001), but only 674 (38.3%) over 4 sequential HSgFOBT rounds (RR, 2.19; 95% CI, 2.05-2.33). Overall adherence to any screening increased to 1558 (88.5%) in the screening colonoscopy arm during the entire study period and 1493 (84.7%) in the HSgFOBT arm (RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02-1.07). Four hundred thirty-six participants (24.7%) crossed over to screening colonoscopy during the first 4 rounds. ADN-SERs were detected in 121 of the 1473 participants (8.2%) in the colonoscopy arm who were adherent to protocol in the first 12 months of the study, whereas detection of ADN-SERs among those who were not sequentially adherent (n = 709) to HSgFOBT was subpar (0.6%) (RR, 14.72; 95% CI, 5.46-39.67) compared with those who were sequentially adherent (3.3%) (n = 647) (RR, 2.52; 95% CI, 1.61-3.98) to HSgFOBT in the first 4 rounds. When including colonoscopies from HSgFOBT patients who were never positive yet crossed over (n = 1483), 5.5% of ADN-SERs were detected (RR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.15-1.96) in the first 4 rounds.

Conclusions: Observed adherence to sequential rounds of HSgFOBT was suboptimal compared with a single screening colonoscopy. Detection of ADN-SERs was inferior when nonsequential HSgFOBT adherence was compared with sequential adherence. However, the greatest number of ADN-SERs was detected among those who crossed over to colonoscopy and opted to receive a colonoscopy. The effectiveness of an HSgFOBT screening program may be enhanced if crossover to screening colonoscopy is permitted.

Clinicaltrials: gov, Number: NCT00102011.

Keywords: Colonoscopy; Colorectal Cancer Screening; Crossover Colonoscopy; Fecal Occult Blood Test; Screening Guidelines.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Occult Blood*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00102011