Colonoscopy is required following a positive fecal screening test for colorectal cancer (CRC). It remains unclear to what extent time to colonoscopy is associated with CRC-related outcomes. We performed a systematic review to elucidate this relationship..
..From 1,612 initial studies, 8 were included in the systematic review, with 5 reporting outcomes for FIT. Although meta-analysis was not possible, consistent trends between longer time delays and worse outcomes were apparent in all studies.
Colonoscopy performed beyond 9 months from positive FIT compared to within 1 month was significantly associated with a higher incidence of CRC, with adjusted odds ratios (AORs) of 1.75 and 1.48 in the two largest studies. These studies also reported significant associations between colonoscopy performed beyond 9 months and higher incidence of advanced stage CRC (stage III or IV) at diagnosis, with AORs of 2.79 and 1.55, respectively.
Colonoscopy for positive FIT should not be delayed beyond 9 months. Given the additional time required for urgent referrals and surgical planning for CRC, colonoscopy should ideally be performed well in advance of 9 months following a positive FIT.