Costs and cost-effectiveness of full implementation of a biennial faecal occult blood test screening program for bowel cancer in Australia
Objective: To examine the costs and cost-effectiveness of full implementation of biennial bowel cancer screening for Australian residents aged 50-74 years. Design and setting: Identification of existing economic models from 1993 to 2010 through searches of PubMed and economic analysis databases, and by seeking expert advice; and additional modelling to determine the costs and cost-effectiveness of full implementation of biennial faecal occult blood test screening for the five million adults in Australia aged 50-74 years. Main outcome measures: Estimated number of deaths from bowel cancer prevented, costs, and cost-effectiveness (cost per life-year gained [LYG]) of biennial bowel cancer screening. Results: We identified six relevant economic analyses, all of which found colorectal cancer (CRC) screening to be very cost-effective, with costs per LYG under $55 000 per year in 2010 Australian dollars. Based on our additional modelling, we conservatively estimate that full implementation of biennial screening for people aged 50-74 years would have gross costs of $150 million, reduce CRC mortality by 15%-25%, prevent 300-500 deaths from bowel cancer, and save 3600-6000 life-years annually, for an undiscounted cost per LYG of $25 000-$41 667, compared with no screening, and not taking cost savings as a result of treatment into consideration. The additional expenditure required, after accounting for reductions in CRC incidence, savings in CRC treatment costs, and existing ad-hoc colonoscopy use, is likely to be less than $50 million annually. Conclusions: Full implementation of biennial faecal occult blood test screening in Australia can reduce bowel cancer mortality, and is an efficient use of health resources that would require modest additional government investment.