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The effects of population-based faecal occult blood test screening upon emergency colorectal cancer admissions in Coventry and north Warwickshire


Objective: The English arm of the UK Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot has recently concluded its third round. The primary aim of this study was to assess the effects of this programme on the emergency and elective cancer workload at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust; the largest trust within the screened region. The secondary aim was to assess its effect upon Dukes staging, mortality and stoma formation for emergency colorectal cancer (CRC) admissions.

Design: A retrospective analysis of validated data for CRC admissions over a period of 6 years from 1999 to 2004 was performed. The first year, 1999, represented the pre-screening year (PSY) which was taken as a baseline. Data for the next 5 years, screening years 1–5 (SY1–SY5), were recorded for the mode of admission, occurrence of emergency surgery, 30-day mortality and Dukes staging.

Results: In the PSY (1999), 29.4% of CRCs were admitted as an emergency, decreasing to 15.8% by 2004 (p = 0.001). As a consequence, there was a significant decrease in the number of emergency CRC procedures performed over the same period (p<0.05). There was also a significant reduction in the 30-day mortality from 48% in 1999 to 13% in 2004 (p<0.05). Dukes stage C carcinomas, however, remained the predominant stage presenting as emergencies throughout the studied period (SY3, 53%; SY4, 38%; SY5, 50%).

Conclusion: Following commencement of the UK Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot, there has been a significant decline in emergency CRC workload with a marked improvement in 30-day mortality and decreased stoma formation, in Coventry and North Warwickshire. It is postulated that the witnessed and notable positive impact over such a short time period is the result of increased detection of asymptomatic malignancies within the screening programme, increased public awareness of the symptoms of CRC, together with a change in attitudes and referral patterns of general practitioners within Coventry and North Warwickshire.

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