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      The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Program: current perspectives on strategies for improvement

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          Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the UK. The English National Health Service (NHS) Bowel Cancer Screening Program (BCSP) was introduced in 2006 to improve CRC mortality by earlier detection of CRC. It is now offered to patients aged 60–74 years and involves a home-based guaiac fecal occult blood test (gFOBt) biennially, and if positive, patients are offered a colonoscopy. This has been associated with a 15% reduction in mortality. In 2013, an additional arm to BCSP was introduced, Bowelscope. This offers patients aged 55 years a one-off flexible sigmoidoscopy, and if several adenomas are found, the patients are offered a completion colonoscopy. BCSP has been associated with a significant stage shift in CRC diagnosis; however, the uptake of bowel cancer screening remains lower than that for other screening programs. Further work is required to understand the reasons for nonparticipation of patients to ensure optimal uptake. A change of gFOBt kit to the fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) in the English BCSP may further increase patient participation. This, in addition to increased yield of neoplasia and cancers with the FIT kit, is likely to further improve CRC outcomes in the screened population.

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          Most cited references 67

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          Reducing mortality from colorectal cancer by screening for fecal occult blood. Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Study.

           J Mandel,  J H Bond,  T Church (1993)
          Although tests for occult blood in the feces are widely used to screen for colorectal cancers, there is no conclusive evidence that they reduce mortality from this cause. We evaluated a fecal occult-blood test in a randomized trial and documented its effectiveness. We randomly assigned 46,551 participants 50 to 80 years of age to screening for colorectal cancer once a year, to screening every two years, or to a control group. Participants who were screened submitted six guaiac-impregnated paper slides with two smears from each of three consecutive stools. About 83 percent of the slides were rehydrated. Participants who tested positive underwent a diagnostic evaluation that included colonoscopy. Vital status was ascertained for all study participants during 13 years of follow-up. A committee determined causes of death. A single pathologist determined the stage of each tissue specimen. Differences in mortality from colorectal cancer, the primary study end point, were monitored with the sequential log-rank statistic. The 13-year cumulative mortality per 1000 from colorectal cancer was 5.88 in the annually screened group (95 percent confidence interval, 4.61 to 7.15), 8.33 in the biennially screened group (95 percent confidence interval, 6.82 to 9.84), and 8.83 in the control group (95 percent confidence interval, 7.26 to 10.40). The rate in the annually screened group, but not in the biennially screened group, was significantly lower than that in the control group. Reduced mortality in the annually screened group was accompanied by improved survival in those with colorectal cancer and a shift to detection at an earlier stage of cancer. Annual fecal occult-blood testing with rehydration of the samples decreased the 13-year cumulative mortality from colorectal cancer by 33 percent.
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            Randomised controlled trial of faecal-occult-blood screening for colorectal cancer.

            There is growing evidence that faecal-occult-blood (FOB) screening may reduce colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality, but this reduction in CRC mortality has not been shown in an unselected population-based randomised controlled trial. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of FOB screening on CRC mortality in such a setting. Between February, 1981, and January, 1991, 152,850 people aged 45-74 years who lived in the Nottingham area of the UK were recruited to our study. Participants were randomly allocated FOB screening (76,466) or no screening (controls; 76,384). Controls were not told about the study and received no intervention. Screening-group participants were sent a Haemoccult FOB test kit with instructions from their family doctor. FOB tests were not rehydrated and dietary restrictions were imposed only for retesting borderline results. Individuals with negative FOB tests at the first screening, together with those who tested positive but in whom no neoplasia was found on colonoscopy, were invited to take part in further screening every 2 years. Screening was stopped in February, 1995, by which time screening-group participants had been offered FOB tests between three and six times. Screening-group participants who had a positive test were offered full colonoscopy. All participants were followed up until June, 1995. The primary outcome measure was CRC mortality. Of the 152,850 individuals recruited to the study, 2599 could not be traced or had emigrated and were excluded from the analysis. Thus, there were 75,253 participants in the screening group and 74,998 controls. 44,838 (59.6%) screening-group participants completed at least one screening. 28,720 (38.2%) of these individuals completed all the FOB tests they were offered and 16,118 (21.4%) completed at least one screening but not all the tests they were offered. 30,415 (40.4%) did not complete any test. Of 893 cancers (20% stage A) diagnosed in screening-group participants (CRC incidence of 1.49 per 1000 person-years), 236 (26.4%) were detected by FOB screening, 249 (27.9%) presented after a negative FOB test or investigation, and 400 (44.8%) presented in non-responders. The incidence of cancer in the control group (856 cases, 11% stage A) was 1.44 per 1000 person-years. Median follow-up was 7.8 years (range 4.5-14.5). 360 people died from CRC in the screening group compared with 420 in the control group-a 15% reduction in cumulative CRC mortality in the screening group (odds ratio=0.85 [95%; CI 0.74-0.98], p = 0.026). Our findings together with evidence from other trials suggest that consideration should be given to a national programme of FOB screening to reduce CRC mortality in the general population.
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              Once-only flexible sigmoidoscopy screening in prevention of colorectal cancer: a multicentre randomised controlled trial.

              Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and has a high mortality rate. We tested the hypothesis that only one flexible sigmoidoscopy screening between 55 and 64 years of age can substantially reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality. This randomised controlled trial was undertaken in 14 UK centres. 170 432 eligible men and women, who had indicated on a previous questionnaire that they would accept an invitation for screening, were randomly allocated to the intervention group (offered flexible sigmoidoscopy screening) or the control group (not contacted). Randomisation by sequential number generation was done centrally in blocks of 12, with stratification by trial centre, general practice, and household type. The primary outcomes were the incidence of colorectal cancer, including prevalent cases detected at screening, and mortality from colorectal cancer. Analyses were intention to treat and per protocol. The trial is registered, number ISRCTN28352761. 113 195 people were assigned to the control group and 57 237 to the intervention group, of whom 112 939 and 57 099, respectively, were included in the final analyses. 40 674 (71%) people underwent flexible sigmoidoscopy. During screening and median follow-up of 11.2 years (IQR 10.7-11.9), 2524 participants were diagnosed with colorectal cancer (1818 in control group vs 706 in intervention group) and 20 543 died (13 768 vs 6775; 727 certified from colorectal cancer [538 vs 189]). In intention-to-treat analyses, colorectal cancer incidence in the intervention group was reduced by 23% (hazard ratio 0.77, 95% CI 0.70-0.84) and mortality by 31% (0.69, 0.59-0.82). In per-protocol analyses, adjusting for self-selection bias in the intervention group, incidence of colorectal cancer in people attending screening was reduced by 33% (0.67, 0.60-0.76) and mortality by 43% (0.57, 0.45-0.72). Incidence of distal colorectal cancer (rectum and sigmoid colon) was reduced by 50% (0.50, 0.42-0.59; secondary outcome). The numbers needed to be screened to prevent one colorectal cancer diagnosis or death, by the end of the study period, were 191 (95% CI 145-277) and 489 (343-852), respectively. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a safe and practical test and, when offered only once between ages 55 and 64 years, confers a substantial and longlasting benefit. Medical Research Council, National Health Service R&D, Cancer Research UK, KeyMed. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Risk Manag Healthc Policy
                Risk Manag Healthc Policy
                Risk Management and Healthcare Policy
                Risk Management and Healthcare Policy
                Dove Medical Press
                04 December 2017
                : 10
                : 177-187
                [1 ]Department of Gastroenterology, South Tyneside District Hospital, South Shields
                [2 ]Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London
                [3 ]School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University, Stockton on Tees
                [4 ]Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Colin J Rees, Department of Gastroenterology, South Tyneside District Hospital, Harton Lane, South Shields NE34 0PL, UK, Email Colin.Rees@
                © 2017 Koo et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.



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