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Brief Summary


GUIDELINE TITLE

  Screening for colorectal cancer: recommendations and rationale.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCE(S)

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer: recommendations and rationale. Ann Intern Med 2002 Jul 16;137(2):129-31.

GUIDELINE STATUS

This is the current release of the guideline.

This release updates a previously published guideline: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer. In: Guide to clinical preventive services. 2nd ed. Baltimore (MD): Williams & Wilkins; 1996.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS



MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades its recommendations (A, B, C, D, or I) and the quality of the overall evidence for a service (good, fair, poor). The definitions of these grades can be found at the end of the "Major Recommendations" field.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) strongly recommends that clinicians screen men and women 50 years of age or older for colorectal cancer. Grade A recommendation.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found fair to good evidence that several screening methods are effective in reducing mortality from colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that the benefits from screening substantially outweigh potential harms, but the quality of evidence, magnitude of benefit, and potential harms vary with each method.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found good evidence that periodic fecal occult blood testing reduces mortality from colorectal cancer and fair evidence that sigmoidoscopy alone or in combination with fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) reduces mortality. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force did not find direct evidence that screening colonoscopy is effective in reducing colorectal cancer mortality; efficacy of colonoscopy is supported by its integral role in trials of fecal occult blood testing, extrapolation from sigmoidoscopy studies, limited case-control evidence, and the ability of colonoscopy to inspect the proximal colon. Double-contrast barium enema offers an alternative means of whole-bowel examination, but it is less sensitive than colonoscopy, and there is no direct evidence that it is effective in reducing mortality rates. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found insufficient evidence that newer screening technologies (for example, computed tomography colography) are effective in improving health outcomes.

There are insufficient data to determine which strategy is best in terms of the balance of benefits and potential harms or cost-effectiveness. Studies reviewed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force indicate that colorectal cancer screening is likely to be cost-effective (less than $30,000 per additional year of life gained) regardless of the strategy chosen.

It is unclear whether the increased accuracy of colonoscopy compared with alternative screening methods (for example, the identification of lesions that fecal occult blood testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy would not detect) offsets the procedure’s additional complications, inconvenience, and costs.

Clinical Considerations

  • Potential screening options for colorectal cancer include home fecal occult blood testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, the combination of home fecal occult blood testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and double-contrast barium enema. Each option has advantages and disadvantages that may vary for individual patients and practice settings. The choice of specific screening strategy should be based on patient preferences, medical contraindications, patient adherence, and available resources for testing and follow-up. Clinicians should talk to patients about the benefits and potential harms associated with each option before selecting a screening strategy.
  • The optimal interval for screening depends on the test. Annual fecal occult blood testing offers greater reductions in mortality rates than biennial screening but produces more false-positive results. A 10-year interval has been recommended for colonoscopy on the basis of evidence regarding the natural history of adenomatous polyps. Shorter intervals (5 years) have been recommended for flexible sigmoidoscopy and double-contrast barium enema because of their lower sensitivity, but there is no direct evidence with which to determine the optimal interval for tests other than fecal occult blood testing. Case-control studies have suggested that sigmoidoscopy every 10 years may be as effective as sigmoidoscopy performed at shorter intervals.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends initiating screening at 50 years of age for men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer, based on the incidence of cancer above this age in the general population. In persons at higher risk (for example, those with a first-degree relative who receives a diagnosis with colorectal cancer before 60 years of age), initiating screening at an earlier age is reasonable.
  • Expert guidelines exist for screening very high-risk patients, including those with a history suggestive of familial polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, or those with a personal history of ulcerative colitis. Early screening with colonoscopy may be appropriate, and genetic counseling or testing may be indicated for patients with genetic syndromes.
  • The appropriate age at which colorectal cancer screening should be discontinued is not known. Screening studies have generally been restricted to patients younger than 80 years of age, with colorectal cancer mortality rates beginning to decrease within 5 years of initiating screening. Yield of screening should increase in older persons (because of higher incidence of colorectal cancer), but benefits may be limited as a result of competing causes of death. Discontinuing screening is therefore reasonable in patients whose age or comorbid conditions limit life expectancy.
  • Proven methods of fecal occult blood testing screening use guaiac-based test cards prepared at home by patients from three consecutive stool samples and forwarded to the clinician. Whether patients need to restrict their diet and avoid certain medications is not established. Rehydration of the specimens before testing increases the sensitivity of fecal occult blood testing but substantially increases the number of false-positive test results. Neither digital rectal examination (DRE) nor the testing of a single stool specimen obtained during digital rectal examination is recommended as an adequate screening strategy for colorectal cancer.
  • The combination of fecal occult blood testing and sigmoidoscopy may detect more cancers and more large polyps than either test alone, but the additional benefits and potential harms of combining the two tests are uncertain. In general, fecal occult blood testing should precede sigmoidoscopy because a positive test result is an indication for colonoscopy, obviating the need for sigmoidoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy is the most sensitive and specific test for detecting cancer and large polyps but is associated with higher risks than other screening tests for colorectal cancer. These include a small risk for bleeding and risk for perforation, primarily associated with removal of polyps or biopsies performed during screening. Colonoscopy also usually requires more highly trained personnel, overnight bowel preparation, sedation, and longer recovery time, which may necessitate transportation for the patient. It is not certain whether the potential added benefits of colonoscopy relative to screening alternatives are large enough to justify the added risks and inconvenience for all patients.
  • Initial costs of colonoscopy are higher than the costs of other tests. Estimates of cost-effectiveness, however, suggest that, from a societal perspective, compared with no screening, all methods of colorectal cancer screening are likely to be as cost-effective as many other clinical preventive services; less than $30,000 per additional year of life gained.

Definitions:

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades its recommendations according to one of five classifications (A, B, C, D, or I), reflecting the strength of evidence and magnitude of net benefit (benefits minus harms).

A

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) strongly recommends that clinicians provide [the service] to eligible patients. (The USPSTF found good evidence that [the service] improves important health outcomes and concludes that benefits substantially outweigh harms.)

B

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians provide [the service] to eligible patients. (The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] improves health outcomes and concludes that benefits outweigh harms.)

C

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes no recommendation for or against routine provision of [the service]. (The US Preventive Services Task Force found at least fair evidence that [the service] can improve health outcomes but concludes that the balance of benefits and harms it too close to justify a general recommendation.)

D

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against routinely providing [the service] to asymptomatic patients. (The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] is ineffective or that harms outweigh benefits.)

I

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routinely providing [the service]. (Evidence that [the service] is effective is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades the quality of the overall evidence for a service on a 3-point scale (good, fair, or poor).

Good

Evidence includes consistent results from well-designed, well-conducted studies in representative populations that directly assess effects on health outcomes.

Fair

Evidence is sufficient to determine effects on health outcomes, but the strength of the evidence is limited by the number, quality, or consistency of the individual studies; generalizability to routine practice; or indirect nature of evidence on health outcomes.

Poor

Evidence is insufficient to assess the effects on health outcomes because of limited number or power of studies, important flaws in their design or conduct, gaps in the chain of evidence, or lack of information on important health outcomes.

CLINICAL ALGORITHM(S)

   None provided

 

EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE RECOMMENDATION



TYPE OF EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS

The type of supporting evidence is identified and graded for each recommendation (see the "Major Recommendations" field).

 

IDENTIFYING INFORMATION AND AVAILABILITY



BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCE(S)

    * U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer: recommendations and rationale. Ann Intern Med 2002 Jul 16;137(2):129-31.

ADAPTATION

Not applicable: The guideline was not adapted from another source.

DATE RELEASED

1996 (revised 2002 Jul)

GUIDELINE DEVELOPER(S)

United States Preventive Services Task Force - Independent Expert Panel

GUIDELINE DEVELOPER COMMENT

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a Federally-appointed panel of independent experts. Conclusions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force do not necessarily reflect policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or its agencies.

SOURCE(S) OF FUNDING

United States Government

GUIDELINE COMMITTEE

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)

COMPOSITION OF GROUP THAT AUTHORED THE GUIDELINE

Task Force Members: Alfred O. Berg, MD, MPH, (Chair); Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, CS (Vice-chair); Paul S. Frame, MD; Charles J. Homer, MD, MPH; Mark S. Johnson, MD, MPH; Jonathan D. Klein, MD, MPH; Tracy A. Lieu, MD, MPH; Cynthia D. Mulrow, MD, MSc; Tracy C. Orleans, PhD; Jeffrey F. Peipert, MD, MPH; Nola J. Pender, PhD, RN, FAAN; Albert L. Siu, MD, MSPH; Steven M. Teutsch, MD, MPH; Carolyn Westhoff, MD, MSc; Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH.

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES/CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

The U.S. Preventive Services Task force has an explicit policy concerning conflict of interest. All members and evidence-based practice center (EPC) staff disclose at each meeting if they have an important financial conflict for each topic being discussed. Task Force members and EPC staff with conflicts can participate in discussions about evidence, but members abstain from voting on recommendations about the topic in question.

From: Harris RP, Helfand M, Woolf SH, Lohr KN, Mulrow, CD, Teutsch SM, Atkins D. Current methods of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: a review of the process. Methods Work Group, Third U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Am J Prev Med 2001 Apr;20(3S):21-35.

GUIDELINE STATUS

This is the current release of the guideline.

This release updates a previously published guideline: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer. In: Guide to clinical preventive services. 2nd ed. Baltimore (MD): Williams & Wilkins; 1996.

GUIDELINE AVAILABILITY

Electronic copies: Available from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Web site. Also available from the Annals of Internal Medicine Online and the National Library of Medicine's Health Services/Technology Assessment Text (HSTAT) Web site.

Print copies: Available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Publications Clearinghouse. For more information, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/news/pubsix.htm or call 1-800-358-9295 (U.S. only). (Outside the United States: 1-410-381-3150; Toll-free TDD service; hearing impaired only: 888-586-6340.)

AVAILABILITY OF COMPANION DOCUMENTS

The following are available:

Evidence Reviews:

  • Pigone M, Rich M, Teutsch SM, Berg AO, Lohr KN. Screening for colorectal cancer in adults at average risk: summary of the evidence for the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2002 Jul;137(2):132-41.

Electronic copies: Available from the USPSTF Web site and the Annals of Internal Medicine Online.

  • Pigone M, Somnath S, Hoerger T, Mandelblatt J. Cost-effectiveness analyses of colorectal cancer screening: a review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Ann Intern Med 2002 Jul;137(2):96-104.

Electronic copies: Available from the USPSTF Web site and the Annals of Internal Medicine Online.

  • Pigone M, Rich M, Teutsch SM, Berg AO, Lohr KN. Screening for colorectal cancer in adults. Rockville (MD); Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2002 June. (Systematic evidence review; no. 7). AHRQ publication no. AHRQ02-S003.

Background Articles:

  • Woolf SH, Atkins D. The evolving role of prevention in health care: contributions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Am J Prev Med 2001 Apr;20(3S):13-20.
  • Harris RP, Helfand M, Woolf SH, Lohr KN, Mulrow, CD, Teutsch SM, Atkins D. Current methods of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: a review of the process. Methods Work Group, Third U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Am J Prev Med 2001 Apr;20(3S):21-35.
  • Saha S, Hoerger TJ, Pignone MP, Teutsch SM, Helfand M, Mandelblatt. The art and science of incorporating cost effectiveness into evidence-based recommendations for clinical preventive services. Cost Work Group of the Third U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Am J Prev Med 2001 Apr;20(3S):36-43.

Electronic copies: Available from U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Web site.

The following are also available:

  • The guide to clinical preventive services, 2006. Recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), 2006. 228 p. Electronic copies available from the AHRQ Web site.
  • Colorectal cancer screening. What's new from the third USPSTF. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2002 Jun. Electronic copies: Available from USPSTF Web site.

Print copies: Available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Publications Clearinghouse. For more information, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/news/pubsix.htm or call 1-800-358-9295 (U.S. only).

The Electronic Preventive Services Selector (ePSS), available as a PDA application and a web-based tool, is a quick hands-on tool designed to help primary care clinicians identify the screening, counseling, and preventive medication services that are appropriate for their patients. It is based on current recommendations of the USPSTF and can be searched by specific patient characteristics, such as age, sex, and selected behavioral risk factors.

PATIENT RESOURCES

The following is available:

  • The Pocket Guide to Good Health for Adults. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2003.

Electronic copies: Available from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Web site. Copies also available in Spanish from the USPSTF Web site.

Print copies: Available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Publications Clearinghouse. For more information, go to http://www.ahrq.gov/news/pubsix.htm or call 1-800-358-9295 (U.S. only).

Please note: This patient information is intended to provide health professionals with information to share with their patients to help them better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. By providing access to this patient information, it is not the intention of NGC to provide specific medical advice for particular patients. Rather we urge patients and their representatives to review this material and then to consult with a licensed health professional for evaluation of treatment options suitable for them as well as for diagnosis and answers to their personal medical questions. This patient information has been derived and prepared from a guideline for health care professionals included on NGC by the authors or publishers of that original guideline. The patient information is not reviewed by NGC to establish whether or not it accurately reflects the original guideline's content.

NGC STATUS

This summary was completed by ECRI on July 8, 2002. The information was verified by the guideline developer on July 11, 2002.

COPYRIGHT STATEMENT

Requests regarding copyright should be sent to: Gerri M. Dyer, Electronic Dissemination Advisor, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research), Center for Health Information Dissemination, Suite 501, Executive Office Center, 2101 East Jefferson Street, Rockville, MD 20852; Facsimile: 301-594-2286; E-mail: gdyer@ahrq.gov.

 

DISCLAIMER



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