Guaiac versus immunochemical tests: Faecal occult blood test screening for colorectal cancer in a rural community

Karen Hughes, Barbara Leggett, Christopher Del Mar, John Croese, Stephen Fairley, John Masson, Joanne Aitken, Alexandra Clavarino, Monika Janda, Warren R. Stanton, Shilu Tong, Beth Newman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe patient participation and clinical performance in a colorectal cancer (CRC) screening program utilising faecal occult blood test (FOBT). Methods: A community-based intervention was conducted in a small, rural community in north Queensland, 2000/01. One of two FOBT kits - guaiac (Hemoccult-II) or immunochemical (Inform) - was assigned by general practice and mailed to participants (3,358 patients aged 50-74 years listed with the local practices). Results: Overall participation in FOBT screening was 36.3%. Participation was higher with the immunochemical kit than the guaiac kit (OR=1.9, 95% CI 1.6-2.2). Women were more likely to comply with testing than men (OR=1.4, 95% CI 1.2-1.7), and people in their 60s were less likely to participate than those 70-74 years (OR=0.8, 95% CI 0.6-0.9). The positivity rate was higher for the immunochemical (9.5%) than the guaiac (3.9%) test (χ2=9.2, p=0.002), with positive predictive values for cancer or adenoma of advanced pathology of 37.8% (95% CI 28.1-48.6) for !nform and 40.0% (95% CI 16.8-68.7) for Hemoccult-II. Colonoscopy follow-up was 94.8% with a medical complication rate of 2-3%. Conclusions: An immunochemical FOBT enhanced participation. Higher positivity rates for this kit did not translate into higher false-positive rates, and both test types resulted in a high yield of neoplasia. Implications: In addition to type of FOBT, the ultimate success of a population-based screening program for CRC using FOBT will depend on appropriate education of health professionals and the public as well as significant investment in medical infrastructure for colonoscopy follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


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