There has been an increase in the numbers of patients presenting to primary care with suspected colorectal malignancy and subsequently an increase in demand for endoscopy. This study aims to forecast the cost of faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) compared to conventional diagnostic tests as a primary investigation for patients with symptoms suggestive of colorectal malignancy.
Retrospectively, 1950 patients with symptoms suggestive of colorectal malignancy who were referred through primary care and underwent investigations through standard endoscopic evaluation were included. These patients were used to forecast the cost of faecal immunochemical testing creating theoretical data for sensitivity and specificity. Outcome measures included: the number of investigations under current protocol; cost of current investigations; number of predicted false negatives and false positives and positive/negative predictive values using current sensitivity data for FIT; the cost forecast of using FIT as the primary investigation for colorectal malignancy.
Median age was 65 (IQR 47-82) with 43.7% male and 56.3% female. A total of 1950 investigations were carried out with a diagnostic yield of 26 cancers (18 colon, 8 rectal), 138 polyps and 29 high risk adenomas (HGD ±  > 10 mm). In total, £713,948 was spent on the investigations. The commonest investigation was colonoscopy totalling £533,169. The total cost per cancer diagnosis was £27,459. Sensitivity (92.1% CI 86.9-95.3) and specificity (85.8% CI 78.3-90.1) for FIT in colorectal cancer was taken from NICE and was costed via the manufacturer(s). The projected total cost of FIT for the same population using a ≥ 4 μg haemoglobin cut off was £415,680 (£15,554 per cancer). The total cost of high-risk polyps using ≥ 4 μg cut off was £404,427 (sensitivity 71.2% CI 60.5-87.2, specificity 79.8%CI 76.1-83.7) or £13,945 per polyp.
FIT is a cheaper and effective alternative test with the potential to replace current expensive methods. The forecast is based on the limited data available for sensitivity/specificity in the current literature. FIT has now been commenced for symptomatic patients in the UK and therefore sensitivity may change in the future.