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Int J Cancer. 2012 Nov 1;131(9):2094-102. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27463. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

How should individuals with a false-positive fecal occult blood test for colorectal cancer be managed? A decision analysis.

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Division of Preventive Oncology, National Center for Tumor Diseases/German Cancer Research Center, DKFZ, Heidelberg, Germany.


Several industrialized nations recommend fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) to screen for colorectal cancer (CRC), but corresponding screening guidelines do not specify how individuals with a prior false-positive FOBT result (fpFOBT) should be managed in terms of subsequent CRC screening. Accordingly, we conducted a decision analysis to compare different strategies for managing such individuals. We used a previously developed CRC microsimulation model, SimCRC, to calculate life-years and the lifetime number of colonoscopies (as a measure of required resources) for a cohort of 50-year-olds to whom FOBT-based CRC screening is offered annually from 50 to 75 years. We compared three management strategies for individuals with a prior fpFOBT: (i) resume screening in 10 years with 10-yearly colonoscopy (SwitchCol_long); (ii) resume screening in 1 year with annual FOBT (ContinueFOBT_Short) and (iii) resume screening in 10 years (i.e., the recommended interval following a negative colonoscopy) with annual FOBT (ContinueFOBT_long). We performed sensitivity analyses on various parameters and assumptions. When using different management strategies for individuals with a prior fpFOBT, the variation in the number of life-years gained relative to no screening was <2%, whereas the variation in the lifetime number of colonoscopies was 23% (percentages are calculated as the maximum difference across strategies divided by the lowest number across strategies). The ContinueFOBT_long strategy showed the lowest lifetime number of colonoscopies per life-year gained even when key assumptions were varied. In conclusion, the ContinueFOBT_long strategy was advantageous regarding both clinical benefit and required resources. Specifying an appropriate management strategy for individuals with a prior fpFOBT may substantially reduce required resources within a FOBT-based CRC screening program without limiting its effectiveness.

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