Impact of the faecal immunochemical test on colorectal cancer survival

There is already evidence that the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a useful tool for the diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) that helps to identify symptomatic patients requiring early colonoscopy. Although the recommendation to use FIT is widely accepted, there are no data concerning whether this strategy improves patient survival.The objective was to assess whether the survival is higher if CRC patients have been first diagnosed by FIT (as compared with the rest of patients with CRC)..

..One thousand nine hundred sixty-seven cases of invasive CRC were identified, of which 22.4% were detected in population screening. Of the 1527 cases diagnosed in symptomatic patients, 317 patients had undergone a FIT in the year before the diagnosis of CRC. In 279 cases(18.3%), the result had been positive and this was the first step towards their CRC diagnosis (group 1). Group 2 was composed of the 1248 cases of CRC (81.7%). Considering these cases, 1210 patients with CRC did not undergo any FIT while 38 patients presented a negative result in the year before the diagnosis. The rate of early-stage disease (stage I or II) was higher in group 1 (51.3% vs 45.5% in group 2) (p = 0.04). Furthermore, the 3-year survival was longer in group 1 (72% vs 59% in group 2) (HR 1.50; 95% CI 1.22–1.84).The variables independently associated with worse survival were: group 2, age > 70 years and stage at the moment of diagnosis.

The use of FIT as a diagnostic strategy in symptomatic patients may improve survival in CRC. Nonetheless,FIT is still not widely used in our region