Faecal haemoglobin concentration thresholds for reassurance and urgent investigation for colorectal cancer based on a faecal immunochemical test in symptomatic patients in primary care

Craig Mowat, Jayne Digby, Judith A. Strachan, Rebecca K. McCann, Francis A. Carey, Callum G. Fraser, Robert J. C. Steele (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Abstract

Background Faecal haemoglobin concentration (f-Hb), estimated using a faecal immunochemical test, can be safely implemented in primary care to assess risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). Clinical outcomes of patients presenting with symptoms of lower gastrointestinal disease were examined using an extensive range of f-Hb thresholds to decide on reassurance or referral for further investigation. Methods All patients who attended primary care and submitted a single faecal specimen faecal immunochemical test in the first year of the routine service had f-Hb estimated using HM-JACKarc: f-Hb thresholds from <2 to ≥ 400 µg Hb/g faeces (µg/g) were examined. Results Low f-Hb thresholds of <2, <7, <10 and <20 µg/g gave respective CRC risks of 0.1, 0.3, 0.3 and 0.4%, numbers needed to scope for one CRC of 871, 335, 300 and 249, and ‘false negative’ rates of 2.9, 11.4, 13.3 and 17.1%. With thresholds of <2, <7, <10 and <20 µg/g, 48.6, 74.6, 78.1 and 83.2% respectively of symptomatic patients could be managed without further investigation. With reassurance thresholds of <2 µg/g, <7 µg/g and <10 µg/g, the thresholds for referral for urgent investigation would be >400 µg/g, ≥200 µg/g and ≥100 µg/g. However, patients with a f-Hb concentration of <10 or <20 µg/g with iron deficiency anaemia, or with severe or persistent symptoms, should not be denied further investigation. Conclusions In primary care, f-Hb, in conjunction with clinical assessment, can safely and objectively determine individual risk of CRC and decide on simple reassurance or urgent, or routine referral.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Clinical Biochemistry
Volume58
Issue number3
Early online date17 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Colorectal cancer
  • colorectal disease
  • faecal biomarkers
  • faecal immunochemical test
  • faecal haemoglobin
  • primary care

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