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Can colorectal cancer mass-screening organization be evidence-based? Lessons from failures: The experimental and pilot phases of the Lazio program

Antonio Federici12, Alessandra Barca1, Diego Baiocchi1, Francesco Quadrino1, Sabrina Valle1, Piero Borgia1, Gabriella Guasticchi1, Paolo Giorgi Rossi1* and The Colon-Rectal Cancer Screening Working Group

Author Affiliations

1 Agency for Public Health, Lazio Region, via di S. Costanza 53, 00198, Rome, Italy

2 Italian Ministry of Health, Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Rome, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:318  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-318

Published: 19 September 2008



Screening programmes should be organized to translate theoretical efficacy into effectiveness. An evidence-based organizational model of colorectal cancer screening (CRCS) should assure feasibility and high compliance.


A multidisciplinary Working Group (WG), reviewed literature and guidelines to define evidence-based recommendations. The WG identified the need for further local studies: physicians' CRCS attitudes, the effect of test type and provider on compliance, and individual reasons for non-compliance. A survey of digestive endoscopy services was conducted. A feasibility study on a target population of 300.000 has begun.


Based on the results of population trials and on literature review the screening strategy adopted was Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every two years for 50–74 year olds and, for positives, colonoscopy. The immunochemical test was chosen because it has 20% higher compliance than the Guaiac. GPs were chosen as the preferred provider also for higher compliance. Since we observed that distance is the major determinant of non-compliance, we choose GPs because they are the closest providers, both geographically and emotionally, to the public.

The feasibility study showed several barriers: GP participation was low, there were administrative problems to involve GPs; opportunistic testing by the GPs; difficulties in access to Gastroenterology centres; difficulties in gathering colonoscopy results; little time given to screening activity by the gastroenterology centre.


The feasibility study highlighted several limits of the model. Most of the barriers that emerged were consequences of organisational choices not supported by evidence. The principal limit was a lack of accountability by the participating centres.