Objective The COVID-19 pandemic forced colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programs to downscale their colonoscopy capacity. In this study, we assessed strategies to deal with temporary restricted colonoscopy capacity in a FIT-based CRC screening program while aiming to retain the maximum possible preventive effect of the screening program. Design We simulated the Dutch national CRC screening program inviting individuals between ages 55 and 75 for biennial FIT using the MISCAN-Colon model including the 3-month disruption in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the second half of 2020 and 2021, we simulated three different strategies for the total target population: 1) increasing the FIT cut-off, 2) skipping one screening for specific screening ages, and 3) extending the screening interval. We estimated the impact on required colonoscopy capacity in 2020–2021 and life years (LYs) lost in the long-term. Results Increasing the FIT cut-off, skipping screening ages and extending the screening interval resulted in a maximum reduction of 25,100 (-17.0%), 16,100(-10.9%) and 19,000 (-12.9%) colonoscopies, respectively. Modelling an increased FIT cut-off, the number of LYs lost ranged between 1,400 and 4,400. Skipping just a single screening age resulted in approximately 2,700 LYs lost and this was doubled in case of skipping two screening ages. Extending the screening interval up to 34 months had the smallest impact on LYs lost (up to 1,100 LYs lost). Conclusion This modelling study shows that to anticipate on restricted colonoscopy capacity, temporarily extending the screening interval retains the maximum possible preventive effect of the CRC screening program.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by the Centre for Population Screening of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
© 2022 de Jonge et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.