Endoscopic Colorectal Cancer Screening

A Cost-Saving Analysis

Published in: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, v. 92, no. 7, Apr. 5, 2000, p. 557-563

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Franka Loeve, Martin L. Brown, Rob Boer, Marjolein van Ballegooijen, Gerritt J van Oortmarssen, John Dik F Habbema

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BACKGROUND: Comprehensive analyses have shown that screening for cancer usually induces net costs. In this study, the possible costs and savings of endoscopic colorectal cancer screening are explored to investigate whether the induced savings may compensate for the costs of screening. METHODS: A simulation model for evaluation of colorectal cancer screening, MISCAN-COLON, is used to predict costs and savings for the U.S. population, assuming that screening is performed during a period of 30 years. Plausible baseline parameter values of epidemiology, natural history, screening test characteristics, and unit costs are based on available data and expert opinion. Important parameters are varied to extreme but plausible values. RESULTS: Given the expert opinion-based assumptions, a program based on every 5-year sigmoidoscopy screenings could result in a net savings of direct health care costs due to prevention of cancer treatment costs that compensate for the costs of screening, diagnostic follow-up, and surveillance. This result persists when costs and health effects are discounted at 3%. The break-even point, the time required before savings exceed costs, is 35 years for a screening program that terminates after 30 years and 44 years for a screening program that continues on indefinitely. However, net savings increase or turn into net costs when alternative assumptions about natural history of colorectal cancer, costs of screening, surveillance, and diagnostics are considered. CONCLUSIONS: Given the present, limited knowledge of the disease process of colorectal cancer, test characteristics, and costs, it may well be that the induced savings by endoscopic colorectal cancer screening completely compensate for the costs.

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