Patients 50-79 years old with a demonstrably low risk of developing the disease within 15 years probably don’t need to be screened for colorectal cancer. But if their risk of disease is at least 3% over 15 years, patients should be screened,and colleagues wrote in BMJ (2019;367:l5515 doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5515).
For these patients, “We suggest screening with one of the four screening options: fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year, FIT every 2 years, a single sigmoidoscopy, or a single colonoscopy,” wrote Dr. Helsingen of the University of Oslo, and her team.
She chaired a 22-member international panel that developed a collaborative effort from theresearch and innovation program as a part of the BMJ Rapid Recommendations project. The team reviewed 12 research papers comprising almost 1.4 million patients from Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Follow-up ranged from 0 to 19.5 years for colorectal cancer incidence and up to 30 years for mortality.
Because of the dearth of relevant data in some studies, however, the projected outcomes had to be simulated, with benefits and harms calculations based on 100% screening adherence. However, the team noted, it’s impossible to achieve complete adherence. Most studies of colorectal screening don’t exceed a 50% adherence level.
“All the modeling data are of low certainty. It is a useful indication, but there is a high chance that new evidence will show a smaller or larger benefit, which in turn may alter these recommendations.”
Compared with no screening, all four screening models reduced the risk of colorectal cancer mortality to a similar level.
- FIT every year, 59%.
- FIT every 2 years, 50%.
- Single sigmoidoscopy, 52%.
- Single colonoscopy, 67%.
Screening had less of an impact on reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer:
- FIT every 2 years, 0.05%.
- FIT every year, 0.15%.
- Single sigmoidoscopy, 27%.
- Single colonoscopy, 34%.
The panel also assessed potential. Among almost 1 million patients, the colonoscopy-related mortality rate was 0.03 per 1,000 procedures. The perforation rate was 0.8 per 1,000 colonoscopies after a positive fecal test, and 1.4 per 1,000 screened with sigmoidoscopy. The bleeding rate was 1.9 per 1,000 colonoscopies performed after a positive fecal test, and 3-4 per 1,000 screened with sigmoidoscopy.
Successful implementation of these recommendations hinges on accurate risk assessment, however. The team recommended theplatform as “one of the best performing models for both men and women.”
The calculator includes age, sex, ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol use, family history of gastrointestinal cancer, personal history of other cancers, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, colonic polyps, and body mass index.
“We suggest this model because it is available as an online calculator; includes only risk factors available in routine health care; has been validated in a population separate from the derivation population; has reasonable discriminatory ability; and has a good fit between predicted and observed outcomes. In addition, it is the only online risk calculator we know of that predicts risk over a 15-year time horizon.”
The team stressed that their recommendations can’t be applied to all patients. Because evidence for both screening recommendations was weak – largely because of the dearth of supporting data – patients and physicians should cocreate a personalized screening plan.
“Several factors influence individuals’ decisions whether to be screened, even when they are presented with the same information,” the authors said. These include variation in an individual’s values and preferences, a close balance of benefits versus harms and burdens, and personal preference.
“Some individuals may value a minimally invasive test such as FIT, and the possibility of invasive screening with colonoscopy might put them off screening altogether. Those who most value preventing colorectal cancer or avoiding repeated testing are likely to choose sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.”
The authors had no financial conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: BMJ 2019;367:l5515. .