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Colorectal Cancer Screening within Colonoscopy Capacity Constraints: Can FIT-Based Programs Save More Lives by Trading off More Sensitive Test Cutoffs against Longer Screening Intervals?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Linda Sharp



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2022. Introduction. Colorectal cancer (CRC) prevention programs using fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) in screening rely on colonoscopy for secondary and surveillance testing. Colonoscopy capacity is an important constraint. Some European programs lack sufficient capacity to provide optimal screening intensity regarding age ranges, intervals, and FIT cutoffs. It is currently unclear how to optimize programs within colonoscopy capacity constraints. Design. Microsimulation modeling, using the MISCAN-Colon model, was used to determine if more effective CRC screening programs can be identified within constrained colonoscopy capacity. A total of 525 strategies were modeled and compared, varying 3 key screening parameters: screening intervals, age ranges, and FIT cutoffs, including previously unevaluated 4- and 5-year screening intervals (using a lifetime horizon and 100% adherence). Results were compared with the policy decisions taken in Ireland to provide CRC screening within available colonoscopy capacity. Outcomes estimated net costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and required colonoscopies. The optimal strategies within finite colonoscopy capacity constraints were identified. Results. Combining a reduced FIT cutoff of 10 µg Hb/g, an extended screening interval of 4 y and an age range of 60–72 y requires 6% fewer colonoscopies, reduces net costs by 23% while preventing 15% more CRC deaths and saving 16% more QALYs relative to a strategy (FIT 40 µg Hb/g, 2-yearly, 60–70 year) approximating current policy. Conclusion. Previously overlooked longer screening intervals may optimize cancer prevention with finite colonoscopy capacity constraints. Changes could save lives, reduce costs, and relieve colonoscopy capacity pressures. These findings are relevant to CRC screening programs across Europe that employ FIT-based testing, which face colonoscopy capacity constraints.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McFerran E, O'Mahony JF, Naber S, Sharp L, Zauber AG, Lansdorp-Vogelaar I, Kee F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: MDM Policy and Practice

Year: 2022

Volume: 7

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-12

Online publication date: 07/05/2022

Acceptance date: 08/04/2022

Date deposited: 26/05/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2381-4683

Publisher: SAGE Publications Inc.


DOI: 10.1177/23814683221097064


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Funder referenceFunder name
Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET), U01 CA199335 (EM, SN, AGZ, IL-V)
Health and Social Care Northern Ireland and National Cancer Institute Health Economics Fellowship (grant CDV/4980/14; EM)
National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Cancer Center support grant P30 CA008748 (AGZ)