Impact of faecal haemoglobin-based triage of bowel symptoms presenting to primary care on colorectal cancer diagnosis

Dwi Delson, Mark Ward, Rosemary Haddock, Jennifer Nobes, Jayne Digby, Judith A. Strachan, Craig Mowat (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Aim: Faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) for faecal haemoglobin was introduced into primary care in National Health Service Tayside in 2015 as an adjunct to clinical assessment of new bowel symptoms. We aimed to assess the impact of FIT-based triage in primary care on colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnosis. 

Method: Cancer audit data between January 2016 and December 2019 were reviewed to identify all patients diagnosed locally with CRC. The mode of presentation and stage at diagnosis were noted and patient records were interrogated to identify whether FIT and full blood count (FBC) had been performed prior to referral. Results were compared between the FIT and non-FIT groups. 

Results: In all, 1245 patients were diagnosed with CRC of whom 581 (46.7%) presented through primary care. FIT was performed prior to referral in 440/581 (75.7%), with the proportion increasing from 62.3% in 2016 to 85.8% in 2019. At faecal haemoglobin ≥10 μg Hb/g faeces, sensitivity for CRC was 94.1%. Over the study period the annual proportion of non-emergency presentations increased significantly; presentations from primary care increased from 43.1% to 53.5% (P = 0.0096). After excluding non-FIT patients who had an overt CRC at referral, there was no difference in stage at diagnosis between FIT and non-FIT cancers. Safety-netting with FBC was widely used in our cohort with 97.3% of FIT patients having also had FBC. 

Conclusion: FIT-based triage of new bowel symptoms in primary care is associated with increased non-emergency presentation of CRC but this did not influence stage at diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-793
Number of pages7
JournalColorectal Disease
Issue number4
Early online date10 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • colorectal cancer
  • diagnosis
  • faecal haemoglobin
  • primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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