News

ACP issues guidance for colorectal cancer screening

4 Nov 2019

Physicians should screen for colorectal cancer in average-risk adults who do not have symptoms between the ages of 50 and 75, the American College of Physicians (ACP) states in a new evidence-based guidance statement published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The frequency of screening depends upon the screening approach selected. ACP suggests any one of the following screening strategies:

  • Faecal immunochemical test (FIT) or high sensitivity guaiac-based faecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every two years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years plus FIT every two years

"Not enough people in the United States get screened for colorectal cancer," said ACP President Robert M. McLean, MD, MACP. "Physicians should perform an individualised risk assessment for colorectal cancer in all adults. Doctors and patients should select the screening test based on a discussion of the benefits, harms, costs, availability, frequency, and patient preferences."

ACP's guidance statement is for adults at average risk for colorectal cancer who do not have symptoms.

It does not apply to adults with a family history of colorectal cancer, a long-standing history of inflammatory bowel disease, genetic syndromes such as familial cancerous polyps, a personal history of previous colorectal cancer or benign polyps, or other risk factors.

Although the median age for colorectal cancer diagnosis is 67 years, and individuals aged 65 to 75 years derive the most direct benefit from colorectal cancer screening, screening in adults ages 50 to 75 also has benefit, the ACP found.

All colorectal cancer-screening tests - like all tests and procedures - have both potential benefits and potential harms.

The harms and burdens vary by person and screening strategy. Harms may include bleeding, perforation, cardiopulmonary complications, and radiation exposure.

The age to start and stop screening, screening intervals, and the recommended screening test differ among organisations.

Different organisations have different criteria for evaluating or assessing the quality and certainty of evidence, follow different processes for creating clinical recommendations, and can interpret the evidence differently.

Rather than developing a new clinical practice guideline in such circumstances ACP instead prepares and releases guidance statements that rely on evidence presented or referenced in selected guidelines and accompanying evidence reports.

ACP guidance statements do not include new reviews or searches of the literature outside the body of evidence referenced by the reviewed guidelines.

In an accompanying editorial Michael Pignone, MD, MPH, MACP, wrote: "Several organisations offer evidence-based guidelines for CRC (colorectal cancer) screening, but recommendations sometimes differ. The evidence that supports the various guidelines, including randomised controlled trials that document reductions in CRC mortality with screening, also supports ACP's guidance."

Source: American College of Physicians