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Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2012 Oct-Nov;104(10):537-45.

Prevention or cure in times of crisis: the case of screening for colorectal cancer.

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Department of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, University of Murcia, Service of Gastroenterology, Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca, Murcian Biosanitary Research Institute. Murcia, Spain.


Colorectal cancer is a serious health problem in which screening is capable of reducing both the mortality and the incidence of the disorder. Colonoscopy, the mainstay of this type of screening, allows to establish an early diagnosis and also to eliminate malignant precursor lesions. The screening test which is performed in Spanish programs is the determination of fecal occult blood using the immunochemical method which gives around 70% of positive values for colonoscopy for any type of neoplasia. As a result, in 2009 the National Health System set as an objective that these programs cover 50% of the population by 2015. It is well known that colon screening is highly cost effective with a ratio of around 2500€ per QALY, much lower than ratios of other programs. Only the direct costs of colon and rectal cancer in Spain can be estimated at more than one thousand million euros per year. Early diagnosis and the cancers avoided thanks to screening can reduce these costs by 40%. The impact that the introduction of this screening has on health services can be lessened if the indications for colonoscopy are followed adequately. In conclusion, there is no justification for not acting to prevent CRC and this is especially so in times of crisis as there is no better social cost invested than that which saves suffering, deathsand even money.

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