Cost analysis in a population based screening programme for colorectal cancer: comparison of immunochemical and guaiac faecal occult blood testing

J Med Screen. 1997;4(3):142-6. doi: 10.1177/096914139700400306.


Objective: To compare the costs of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening by two faecal occult blood tests (FOBT)-namely, Hemoccult (guaiac based) and reversed passive haemagglutination (RPHA) tests. RPHA was interpreted according to two positivity thresholds (+ or +/-).

Methods: Attenders performed both tests. Subjects with a positive FOBT test were invited to have a complete exploration of the colon. The total costs for every 10,000 screened subjects and costs for each unit of result (screened subject, or patient with adenoma/s or cancer detected) were calculated for both tests.

Results: 8353 subjects were enrolled. A total of 2109 repeated screening after two years. RPHA(+ and +/-) showed the highest and RPHA(+) the lowest positivity rate at first screening. The Hemoccult positivity rate was highest at repeat screening. Total costs of screening by RPHA(+ and +/-) were highest as this method had the highest recall rate. Screening by RPHA(+) was the least costly. Costs for each screened subject were highest for RPHA(+ and +/-) and lowest for RPHA(+). Costs for each cancer detected were lowest for RPHA(+) and highest for Hemoccult or RPHA(+ and +/-) in subjects aged > 49 or < 50, respectively. Costs for subjects with detected adenoma/s of > 9 mm were lowest for RPHA(+ and +/-) and highest for Hemoccult. At repeat screening total costs of RPHA(+ and +/-) were lower than at first screening, whereas for each subject with cancer or adenoma/s costs were increased.

Conclusions: Our data confirm that screening by RPHA is more cost effective than by Hemoccult.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Immunochemistry
  • Male
  • Mass Screening* / economics
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Middle Aged