This information collection is a core HTA, i.e. an extensive analysis of one or more health technologies using all nine domains of the HTA Core Model. The core HTA is intended to be used as an information base for local (e.g. national or regional) HTAs.

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Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT ) versus guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for colorectal cancer screening

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) for colorectal cancer screening compared to CRC screening with Guaiac –based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) in the screening of Adenomas, as non-malignant precursor lesions of ColoRectal Cancer (CRC). in healthy and/or asymptomatic adults and elderly Any adult over 50 years old, both men and women, with average risk of CRC.

(See detailed scope below)

HTA Core Model Application for Screening Technologies 1.0
Core HTA
Tom Jefferson (Agenas - Italy), Marina Cerbo (Agenas - Italy), Nicola Vicari (Agenas - Italy)
Mirjana Huic (AAZ), Agnes Männik (UTA - Estonia), Jesus Gonzalez (ISCIII - Spain), Ingrid Rosian (GÖG - Austria), Gottfried Endel (HVB - Austria), Valentina Rupel (IER - Slovenia), Alessandra Lo Scalzo (Agenas - Italy), Ingrid Wilbacher (HVB - Austria)
Agenas - Agenzia nazionale per i servizi sanitari regionali
AAZ (Croatia), AETSA (Spain), A. Gemelli (Italy), Avalia-t (Spain), CEIS (Italy), CEM (Luxembourg), GÖG (Austria), HAS (France), HVB (Austria), IER (Slovenia), ISCIII (Spain), Laziosanità (Italy), NCPHA (Bulgaria), NIPH (Slovenia), NSPH (Greece), NSPH MD (Romania), Osteba (Spain), Regione Veneto (Italy), SBU (Sweden), SNHTA (Switzerland), THL (Finland), UTA (Estonia).
5.4.2013 13.07.00
31.7.2014 9.21.00
Jefferson T, Cerbo M, Vicari N [eds.]. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT ) versus guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for colorectal cancer screening [Core HTA], Agenas - Agenzia nazionale per i servizi sanitari regionali; 2014. [cited 28 May 2023]. Available from: http://corehta.info/ViewCover.aspx?id=206


TechnologyFecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) for colorectal cancer screening

FITs use an antibody (immunoglobulin) specific to human globin, the protein component of haemoglobin, to detect fecal occult blood. Immunochemical tests have improved test characteristics compared to conventional guaiac-based tests for fecal occult blood. FIT should not be subject to interference from dietary blood and it is more specific to bleeding from the distal gastrointestinal tract. They could be analytically and clinically more sensitive and specific, Their measurement can be automated and the user can adjust the concentration at which a positive result is reported. A wide range of qualitative and quantitative tests is presently available, with varying levels of sensitivity and specificity (like Hem-SP/MagStream H, Fujirebio Inc. Japan ; OC-Sensor, Eiken Chemical Co., Tokyo, Japan;    FOB Gold, Medinostics Products Supplier; Sentinel Diagnostics SpA, Milan, Italy).

Intended use of the technologyScreening

CRC screening with faecal inmunochemical test (FIT) for detection of occult blood in the stool associated with colorectal lesions (adenomas and CRC).

The use of the test is considered under conditions of population based colorectal cancer screening, in the context of organised cancer screening programmes as recommended by the EU. Early detection and treatment of colorectal lesions before they become symptomatic has the potential to improve control of the disease, reducing morbidity and mortality associated to CRC. Early treatment of invasive lesions can be generally less detrimental for quality of life. The endoscopic removal of pre-malignant lesions also reduces the incidence of CRC by stopping the progression to cancer. Colorectal cancers and adenomatous polyps bleed has providing fecal blood haemoglobin as the biomarker of choice for current screening programmes. Stool samples could be periodically taken and analyzed for the presence of occult blood, as an early sign of colorectal lesions (adenoma or CRC).

Target condition
Adenomas, as non-malignant precursor lesions of ColoRectal Cancer (CRC).
Target condition description

CRC is the third most common in incidence and the fourth most common cause of cancer death worldwide. CRC is particularly suitable for screening. The disease is believed to develop in a vast majority of cases from non-malignant precursor lesions called adenomas. Adenomas can occur anywhere in the colorectum after a series of mutations that cause neoplasia of the epithelium. At some time , the adenoma may invade the submucosa and become malignant. Initially, this malignant cancer is not diagnosed and does not give symptoms  (preclinical phase). It can progress from localised (stage I) to metastasised (stage IV) cancer, until it causes symptoms and is diagnosed. Only 5–6% of the population actually develop CRC. The average duration of the development of an adenoma to CRC is estimated to be  at least 10 years. This long latent phase provides a window of opportunity for early detection of the disease.

Target population

Target population sex: Any. Target population age: adults and elderly. Target population group: Healthy and/or asymptomatic people.

Target population description

Adults, average risk of CRC, aged 50 years or over.

The best age range for offering gFOBT or FIT screening has not been investigated in trials. Circumstantial evidence suggests that mortality reduction from gFOBT is similar in different age ranges between 45 and 80 years .The age range for a national screening programme should at least include people aged 60 to 64 years in which CRC incidence and mortality are high and life-expectancy is still considerable. Only the FOBT for men and women aged 50–74 years has been recommended todate by the EU (Council Recommendation and the European guidelines for quality assurance in CRC screening and diagnosis).

Members of families with hereditary syndromes, previous diagnosis of CRC or pre-malignant lesions should follow specific surveillance protocols and are not included in the target population

ComparisonCRC screening with Guaiac –based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)

CRC screening with Guaiac–based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)

The guaiac-based FOBT is still a commonly used method for detecting blood in faeces. To detect hemoglobin the test uses guaiac gum and its efficacy as a colorectal cancer screening test has been analyzed in several randomised controlled trials. The test detects the haem component of haemoglobin, which is identical across human and animal species and is chemically robust and only partially degraded during its passage through the gastrointestinal tract. gFOBTs cannot distinguish between human blood and blood residues from the diet.

Many guaiac-based tests are currently on the market (like Coloscreen, Helena Laboratories,Texas,USA; Hema-screen Immunostics Inc.; Hemoccult, Beckman Coulter Inc.; Hemoccult SENSA, Beckman Coulter Inc.; MonoHaem, Chemicon Europe Ltd; Hema-Check, Siemens PLC; HemaWipe, Medtek Diagnostics LLC)

The use of the test is considered under conditions of population based colorectal cancer screening, in the context of organised cancer screening programmes as recommended by the EU. Population-based programmes have been rolled out nationwide in several European countries. Many member states  haveestablished nationwide non-population-based programmes. Some states are planning or piloting a nationwide population-based programme. These have  adopted only FOBT, some only FIT, some a mix between FOBT and endoscopy, or only colonoscopy.



  • Health problems (target condition)
  • Epidemiology
  • Burden of disease
  • Target population
  • Current management of the condition
  • Features of the technology
  • Life-Cycle
  • Regulatory status
  • Utilization
  • Investments and tools required to use the technology
  • Training and information needed to use the technology


  • Colonoscopy probability of perforation
  • Colonoscopy with polypectomy probability of perforation
  • Colonoscopy probability of death following perforation
  • Probability of bleeding following colonoscopy
  • Psychological harms from false-negatives and false-positives (and generally from participating in screening program)


  • Test (FIT and gFOBT) sensitivity for adenomas
  • Test (FIT and gFOBT) sensitivity for cancer
  • Test (FIT and gFOBT) specificity for adenomas
  • Test (FIT and gFOBT) specificity for cancer 
  • Adenoma incidence (detection rates)
  • Rectal cancer incidence (detection rates)
  • Colon cancer incidence (detection rates)
  • CRC incidence (detection rates)
  • Stage distribution of detected cancers
  • Rectal cancer specific mortality
  • CRC specific mortality
  • Overall mortality
  • Life years saved


  • Model/template for  national pilots  to assess the costs and benefits of the two alternative  technologies FIT and gFOBT  and also no-programmed-screening
  • Systematic literature search of   available models and/or economic  evaluation for screening colorectal cancer with FIT and gFOBT and no screening programme
  • Resource Utilization: Publicly funded health care payer costs (screening tests, further examinations e.g. labor, colonoscopy  and treatments and administration and organisation costs of screening programme) for FIT and gFOBT (in cooperation with ORG)
  • Cost per Case detected (average, marginal, incremental) =  intermediate outcome – optional, not decided yet (relevant for deciding how often a test should be carried out and what are the incremental costs for a “new” detected case
  • Indirect Costs: not for the Core modell (should be decided later on)
  • Test accuracy: from SAF
  • Cost effectiveness analysis: HRQoL measures (both generic and context specific) (EFF and SAF for help, own Lit.research), ICER


  • Responsiveness of target population to invitation
  • Invitation-reminder system
  • Competence of human resources – health professionals
  • Investments needed (material,equipment)
  • Costs of using both tests (FIT, gFOBT)
  • Timeliness of results and future phases
  • Use of tools for process monitoring (completed check lists)
  • Model for Budget Impact Analysis from perspective of the payer


  • Compliance with the tests (FIT, gFOBT)
  • Anxiety and any psychological effects of using  one test or another
  • Information, counseling, communication (quality of) for the use of tests
  • Satisfaction  
  • Quality of life
  • Equity of access


  • Information as baseline for an informed consent
  • Harms or inequities that can be taken to court