Optimising Bowel Cancer Screening Phase 1: Optimising the cost effectiveness of repeated FIT screening and screening strategies combining bowel scope and FIT screening


ScHARR has been commissioned by the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) to consider the costeffectiveness and endoscopy capacity requirements of a variety of different screening options incorporating faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) and bowel scope (BS) within the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP).

An existing cost-effectiveness model was used. The model was refined considerably, new data included and model validation was undertaken. All FIT thresholds between 20 and 180 µg/ml were modelled. Analyses were undertaken to determine which screening strategies involving repeated FIT screening and/or bowel scope are most cost-effective given endoscopy constraints. Note that the conclusions reached are based on optimising cost-effectiveness where effectiveness is measured in terms of QALYs gained. If the aim was to optimise QALY gains or CRC incidence/mortality reduction then conclusions would be different.

The analysis without endoscopy constraints indicates that the most cost effective screening strategy is the one which delivers the most intensive screening. Regardless of capacity constraints the current screening strategies (gFOBT 2-yearly 60-74 with or without bowel scope age 55) are dominated by a FIT screening strategy (i.e. a FIT strategy exists which is more effective and less expensive). For repeated FIT screening it is recommended that the screening interval is kept to 2-yearly screening. However, increased benefits may be obtained by re-inviting non-attenders after a 1 year interval. The optimal starting age for a repeated FIT screening strategy is 50 or 51 hence it is suggested that the screening start age is reduced compared to what is currently used in the BCSP. The optimal upper screening age varies between 65 and 74, depending on the capacity constraint used. The optimal FIT threshold depends on the available capacity for screening referral colonoscopies. With 50,000 screening referral colonoscopies (current capacity) then we recommend a strategy of 2-yearly, age 51-65, FIT161 (8 screens). With 70,000 screening referral colonoscopies (current capacity) then we recommend a strategy of 2-yearly, age 50-70, FIT153 (11 screens). If 90,000 screening referral colonoscopies is considered feasible to achieve in the future then we recommend a strategy of 2-yearly, age 50-74, FIT124 (13 screens).

In terms of bowel scope screening the model found uncertainty in whether it is cost effective to replace one FIT screen with a one-off bowel scope at age 58/59. However, a repeated FIT screening strategy requiring 125k screening referral colonoscopies annually would be far more effective and cost effective than a one-off bowel scope at age 59. Such strategies could be considered to have equivalent ‘endoscopy capacity’ (assuming that 10 bowel scopes and 4 screening referral colonoscopies are equivalent ).Hence, if bowel scope capacity could be used for undertaking screening referral colonoscopies this would result in higher effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

University of Sheffield, ScHaRR HEDS discussion papers

Technical report for a Health Economics project at the University that I was briefly involved with. My work for this report involved pulling results out of the existing model.