OBJECTIVES: In 2005, the National Health Service recommended a population-based colorectal cancer (CRC) screening program using biennial fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), followed by total colonoscopy in positive patients. So far, no studies have been performed to evaluate the impact of a mass-screening CRC campaign on the health system services at the community level in Italy. We have therefore assessed the workload generated by the first two biennial rounds of screening program on the activity of hospital services involved in CRC diagnosis in the Lecco province.
METHODS: Routine data from all hospital services of our province were collected on activity levels related to CRC diagnosis from January 2003 to December 2009. This time span covered the 2 years prior to, as well as the two biennial rounds of the CRC screening program. In particular, we focused on the volume of outpatient FOBTs and colonoscopies (both diagnostic and interventional) performed among subjects outside the screening program. Joinpoint models were used to test whether an apparent change in trend of examination over time was statistically significant in different age cohorts of the population (
RESULTS: The volume of "extra-screening" per-patient/FOBTs and colonoscopies increased significantly over the evaluated periods in all ages, until year 2008, when a steady trend was beginning; the AAPCs (average of the annual percent changes) values were 5.7, 3.1, and 8.4 for FOBT and 14.6, 13.4, and 16.7 for colonoscopy in the three age cohorts, respectively. However, the increase in both FOBT and colonoscopy demand was maximal in the cohort ≥70 years, where three statistically significant annual percent changes (APCs) were identified (in 2003-2005, 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 APCs were 12.3, 14.9, and 15.9 for FOBT, and 18.7, 36.8, and 25.4 for colonoscopy, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: After the implementation of a FOBT-based mass-screening program for CRC, careful consideration must be given to the significant increase in the workload of hospital services involved in CRC diagnosis, outside the screening campaign. The extra-work mainly involves gastroenterologists performing colonoscopy, whose activity increased over the 5-year period by 118%, as well as laboratory services, where the demand of FOBTs rose by 40%. This phenomenon, mainly attributable to a profound change in the attitude toward CRC screening by those age cohorts outside the program, covers a time span of two full rounds of screening, whereupon a steady trend for colonoscopy is apparent.
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