Participation and yield of colonoscopy versus non-cathartic CT colonography in population-based screening for colorectal cancer: a randomised controlled trial


Screening for colorectal cancer is widely recommended, but the preferred strategy remains unidentified. We aimed to compare participation and diagnostic yield between screening with colonoscopy and with non-cathartic CT colonography.


Members of the general population, aged 50—75 years, and living in the regions of Amsterdam or Rotterdam, identified via the registries of the regional municipal administration, were randomly allocated (2:1) to be invited for primary screening for colorectal cancer by colonoscopy or by CT colonography. Randomisation was done per household with a minimisation algorithm based on age, sex, and socioeconomic status. Invitations were sent between June 8, 2009, and Aug 16, 2010. Participants assigned to CT colonography who were found to have one or more large lesions (≥10 mm) were offered colonoscopy; those with 6—9 mm lesions were offered surveillance CT colonography. The primary outcome was the participation rate, defined as number of invitees undergoing the examination relative to the total number of invitees. Diagnostic yield was calculated as number of participants with advanced neoplasia relative to the total number of invitees. Invitees and screening centre employees were not masked to allocation. This trial is registered in the Dutch trial register, number NTR1829.


1276 (22%) of 5924 colonoscopy invitees participated, compared with 982 (34%) of 2920 CT colonography invitees (relative risk [RR] 1·56, 95% CI 1·46—1·68; p<0·0001). Of the participants in the colonoscopy group, 111 (9%) had advanced neoplasia of whom seven (<1%) had a carcinoma. Of CT colonography participants, 84 (9%) were offered colonoscopy, of whom 60 (6%) had advanced neoplasia of whom five (<1%) had a carcinoma; 82 (8%) were offered surveillance. The diagnostic yield for all advanced neoplasia was 8·7 per 100 participants for colonoscopy versus 6·1 per 100 for CT colonography (RR 1·46, 95% CI 1·06—2·03; p=0·02) and 1·9 per 100 invitees for colonoscopy and 2·1 per 100 invitees for CT colonography (RR 0·91, 0·66—2·03; p=0·56). The diagnostic yield for advanced neoplasia of 10 mm or more was 1·5 per 100 invitees for colonoscopy and 2·0 per 100 invitees for CT colonography, respectively (RR 0·74, 95% CI 0·53—1·03; p=0·07). Serious adverse events related to the screening procedure were post-polypectomy bleedings: two in the colonoscopy group and three in the CT colonography group.


Participation in colorectal cancer screening with CT colonography was significantly better than with colonoscopy, but colonoscopy identified significantly more advanced neoplasia per 100 participants than did CT colonography. The diagnostic yield for advanced neoplasia per 100 invitees was similar for both strategies, indicating that both techniques can be used for population-based screening for colorectal cancer. Other factors such as cost-effectiveness and perceived burden should be taken into account when deciding which technique is preferable.


Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, Centre for Translational Molecular Medicine, and the Nuts Ohra Foundation.

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